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Full text of "Reason, the Only Oracle of Man: Or, A Compenduous System of Natural Religion"

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REASON, 



ONLY ORACLE OF MAN; 



OB A COMrXIfDIOUt 



SYSTEM OF NATURAL RELIGION. 



BY COL. ETHAN ALLEN. 



BOSTON: 
J. P. MENDtJM, CORNHILL. 

1854. Digitized by Google 



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INTRODUCTION. 

Colonel Ethan Allen, the author of Oracles of Reason, 
vfBS the son of Joseph Allen, a native of Coventry, Connecticut, a 
farmer in moderate circumstances. He afterwards resided in Litch- 
field, where Ethan was born in the year 1739. The family con- 
sisted of eight children, of whom our author was the eldest. But 
few incidents connected with his early life are known. We are 
apprised, however, that notwithstanding his education was very 
limited, his ambition to prove himself worthy of that attention 
which superior intellect ever commands, induced him diligently to 
explore every subject that came under his notice. A stranger to 
fear, his opinions were ever given without disguise or hesitation ; 
and an enemy to oppression, he sought every opportunity to redress 
the wrongs of the oppressed. 

At the breaking out of the Revolutionary War, he raised in 
Vermont, where he had resided, a company of volunteers, consist-? 
ing of two hundred and thirty, with which he surprised the fortr ss 
of Ticonderoga, May 10, 1775, containing about forty men, and 
one hundred pieces of cannon. He was unfortunately taken pris- 
oner in September following, in an attempt on Montreal, and suf- 
ferred a cruel imprisonment for several years. For an account of 
ifhich, the reader is referred to his narrative, contained in a me- 
moir of the author, by Mr. Hugh Moore, Plattsburg, 1834. 

Soon after the close of the revolution, Col. Allen composed the 
following work ; which, on account of the bold and unusual manner, 
particularly in this country, that the subject of religion is treated, 
he had great difficulty to get published. It lay a long time in the 
hands of a printer at Hartford, who had not the moral courage to 
print it. 

It was finally printed by a Mr. Haswell, of Bennington, Vt. in 
1 784. Not long after its publication, a part of the edition, compri- 
sing the entire of several signatures, was accidentally consumed by 
fire. Whether Mr. H. deemed this fire a judgment upon him for 
having printed the work or not, is unknown — but, the fact is, he 
soon after committed the remainder of the edition to the flames, and 
joined the Methodist Connection ; so that but few copies were cir- 
culated. 

Col. Allen died in the town of Burlington, Vt., on the J 2th of 
February, 17^9, of apoplexy. Digitized by L^OOgle 



PREFACE. 



An apology appears to me to be impertinent in writers who ven- 
ture their works to public inspection, for this obvious reason, that if 
they need it, they should have been stifled in the birth, and not 
permitted a public existence. I therefore offer my composition to 
the candid judgment of the impartial world without it, taking it for 
granted that I have as good a natural right to expose myself to 
public censure, by endeavouring to subserve mankind, as any of the 
species who have published their productions since the creation ; 
and I ask no favor at the hands of philosophers, divines or critics, 
but hope jand expect they will severely chastise me for my errors 
and nustakes, least they may have a share in perverting the truth, 
which is very far from my intention. 

In the circle of my acquaintance, (which has not been small,) I 
have generally been denominated a Deist, the reality of which I 
never disputed, being conscious I am no Christian, except mere 
infant baptism make me one ; and as to being a Deist, I know not, 
strictly speaking, whether I am one or not, for I have never read 
their writings ; mine will therefore determine the matter ; for I have 
not in the least disguised my sentiments, but have written freely 
without any conscious knowledge of prejudice for, or against any 
man, sectary or party whatever; but wish that good sense, liuth 
and virtue may be promoted and flourish in the world, to the detec- 
tion of delusion, superstition, and false religion ; and therefore my 
errors in the succeeding treatise, which may be rationally pointed 
out, will be rea(Hly rescinded. 

By the public's most obedient and humble servant. 

ETHAN ALLEN. 



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ORACLES OF REASON, 



CHAPTER I, 



SECTION L 

THE DUTY OF REFORMING MANKIND FROM SUPERSTITION AND 
ERROR, AND THE GOOD CON^XJOENCES OF IT, 

The desire of knowledge has engaged the attentioi 
of the wise and curious among mankind in all ages 
which has been productive of extending the arts and 
sciences far and wide in the several quarters of the 
globe, and excited the contemplative to explore na- 
ture's laws in a gradual series of improvement, until 
philosophy, astronomy, geography, |ind history, with 
many other branches of science, have arrived to a 
great degree of perfection. 

It is nevertheless to be regretted, that the bulk of 
mankind, even in those nations which are most cele- 
brated for learning and wisdom, are still carried down 
the torrent of superstition, and entertain very unwor- 
thy apprehensions of the being, perfections, creation, 
and PROVIDENCE of God, and their duty to him, which 
lays an indispensable obligation on the philosophic 
friends of human nature, unanimously to exert them- 
jsielves in every lawful, wise, and prudent method, to 

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2 ORilCLES OF KEASON. ^ 

endeavor to reclaim mankind from their ignorance 
and delusion, by enlightening their miuds in those 
great and sublime truths concerning God and his 
providence, and their obligations to moral rectitude, 
which in this world, and that which is to come, can- 
not fail greatly to affect their happiness and well 
being. 

Though " none by searching can find out God, or 
the Almighty to perfection,'^ yet I am persuaded, that 
if mankind would dare to exercise their reason as 
freely on those divine topics as they do in the common 
concerns of life, they would, in a great measure, rid 
themselves of their blindness and superstition, gain 
more exalted ideas of God and their obligations to 
him and one another, and be proportionally delighted 
and blessed with the views of his moral government, 
make better members of society, and acquire many 
powerful incentives to the practice of morality, which 
is the last and greatest perfection that human nature 
is capable of. 



" ^ " '" SECTION II. 

OF THE BEING OF A GOD. 

The laws of nature having subjected mankind to a 
state of absolute dependence on something out of it, 
and manifestly beyond themselves, or the compound 
exertion of their natural powers, gave them the first 
conception of a superior principle existing ; otherwise 
they could have had no possible conception of a su- 
perintending power. But this sense of dependency, 
which results from experience and reasoning on the 
facts, which every day cannot fail tO/Hjrcyiuce, has 



ORACLES OF REASON. 

uniformly established the knowledge of our depend- 
ence to every individual of the species who are ra- 
tional, which necessarily involves, or contains in it, 
the idea of a ruling power, or that there is a God, 
which ideas are synonymous. 

The globe with its productions, the planets ^n their 
motions, and the starry heavens in their magnitudes, 
surprise our senses and confound our reason, in their 
munificent lessons of instruction concerning God, by 
means whereof, we are apt to be more or less lost in 
our ideas of the object of divine adoration, though at 
the same time every one is truly sensible that their 
being and preservation is from God. We are too apt 
to confound our ideas of God with his works, and 
take the latter for the former. Thus barbarous and 
unlearned nations have imagined, that inasmuch as 
the sun in its influence is beneficial to them in bring- 
ing forward the spring of the year, causing the pro- 
duction of vegetation, and food for their subsistence, 
that therefore it is their God : while others have lo- 
cated other parts of creation, and ascribe to them 
prerogatives of God ; and mere creatures and images 
have been substituted for Gods by the wickedness or 
weakness of man, or both together. It seems that 
mankind in most ages and parts of the world have 
been fond of corporeal Deities with whom their out- 
ward senses might be gratified, or as fantastically di- 
verted from the just apprehension of the true God, by 
a supposed supernatural intercourse with invisible and 
mere spiritual beings, to whom they ascribe divinity, 
so that through one means or other, the character of 
the true God has been much neglected, to the great 
detriment of truth, justice, and morality in the world ; 
nor is it possible that mankind can be uniform in tl\eir 

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4 ORACLES OF REASON. 

religious opinions, or worship God according to know- 
ledge, except they can form a consistent arrangement 
of ideas of the Divine character. 

Although we extend our ideas retrospectively ever 
so far upon the succession, yet no one cause in the 
extended order of succession, which depends upon 
another prior to itself, can be the independent cause 
pf all things : nor is it possible to trace the order of 
the succession of causes back to that self-existent 
cause, inasmuch as it is eternal and infinite, and can- 
not therefore be traced out by succession, which op- 
IBrates according to the order of time, consequently 
can bear no more proportion to the eternity of God, 
than time itself may be supposed to do, which has no 
proportion at all; as the succeeding arguments re- 
specting the eternity and infinity of God will evince. 
But notwithstanding the series of the succession of 
causes cannot be followed in a retrospective succession 
up to the self-existent or eternal cause, it is neverthe- 
less a perpetual and conclusive evidence of a God. — 
For a successioi;! of causes considered collectively, can 
be nothing more than efiects of the independent cause, 
and as much dependent on it a$ those dependent 
causes are iipon one another; so that we may with 
certainty conclude that the system of nature, which 
we call by the name of natural causes, is as rnuch 
dependent on a self-existent cause, as an individual of 
the species in the order of generation is dependent on 
its progenitors fqr exist^ce. Such part of the series 
of nature's operations, which we understand, has a 
regular and necessary connection with, and depend- 
ence on its parts, which we denominate by the names 
of cause and eflfect From hence we are authorised 
from reason to conclude, that th^ vast system of 

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ORACLES 01^ R&A60N* 5 

causes and effects are thus necessarily connected, 
(speaking of the natural world only,) and the whole 
regularly and necessarily dependent on a self-existent 
cause ; so that we are obliged to admit an independ- 
ent cause, and ascribe self-existence to it, otherwise it 
could not be independent, and consequently not a 
God. But the eternity or manner of the existence of 
a self-existent and independent being is to all finite 
capacities utterly incomprehensible ; yet this is so far 
from an objection against the reality of such a being, 
that it is essentially necessary to support the evidence 
of it; for if we could comprehend that being whom 
we call God, he would not be God, but must have 
been finite and that in the same degree as those may 
be supposed to be who could comprehend him ; there- 
fore so certain that God is, we cannot comprehend his 
essence, eternity, or manner of existence. This should 
always be premised, when we assay to reason on the 
being, perfection, eternity, and infinity of God, or of 
his creation and providence. As far as we understand • 
nature, we are become acquainted -with the character 
of God, for the knowledge of nature is the revelation 
of God. If we form in our. imagination a compendi- 
ous idea of the harmony of the universe, it is the 
same as calling God by the name of harmony, for 
there could be no harmony without regulation, and 
no regulation without a regulator, which is expressive 
of the idea of a God. Nor could it be possible, that 
there could be order or disorder, except we admit of 
such a thing as cupation, and creation contains in it 
the idea of a creator, which is another appellation for 
the Divine Being, distinguishing God from his crea- 
tion. Furthermore, there could be no proportion, 
figure, or motion, without wisdom and power ; wis- 



6 ORACLES OF REASON. 

dom to plan, and power to execute, and these are 
perfections, when apphed to the works of nature, 
which signify the agency or superintendency of God. 
If we consider nature to be matter, figure, and mo- 
tion, we include the idea of God in that of motion ; 
for motion implies a mover as much as creation does 
a creator. If from the composition, texture, and ten- 
dency of the universe in general, we form a complex 
idea of general good resulting therefrom to mankind, 
we implicitly admit a God by the name of good, in- 
cluding the idea of his providence to man. And from 
hence arises our obligations to love and adore God, 
because he provides for, and is beneficent to us. Ab- 
stract the idea of goodness from the character of God, 
and it would cancel all our obligations to him, and 
excite us to hate and detest him as a tyrant : hence it 
is, that ignorant people are superstitiously misled into 
a conceit that they hate God, when at the same time 
it is only the idol of their own imagination, which 
they truly ought to hate and be ashamed of; but were 
such persons to connect the ideas of power, wisdom, 
goodness, and all possible perfection in the character 
of God, their hatred towards him would be turned 
into love and adoration. 

By extending our ideas in a larger circle, we shall 
perceive our dependence on the earth and waters of 
the globe which we inhabit, and from which we are 
bountifully fed and gorgeously arrayed; and next ex- 
tend our ideas to the sun, whose fiery mass darts its 
brilliant rays of light to our terraqueous ball with 
amazing velocity, and whose region of inexhaustible 
fire supplies it with fervent heat, which causes vege- 
tation, and gilds the various seasons of the year with 
ten thousand charms : this is not the achievement oi 



ORACLES OF REASON, 7 

'man, but the workmanship and providence of God. 
But how the sun is supplied with materials, thus to 
perpetuate its kind influences, we know not. But 
will any one deny the reality of those beneficial influ- 
ences, because we do not understand the manner of 
the perpetuality of that fiery world, or how it became 
such a body of fire ? or will any one deny the reality 
of nutrition by food, because we do not understand 
the secret operation of the digesting powers of animal 
nature, or the minute particulars of its cherishing in- 
fluence 7 None will be so stupid as to do it. Equally 
absurd would it be for us to deny the providence of 
God, by " whom we live, move, and have our be- 
ing,'' because we cannot comprehend it. 

We know that earth, water, fire and air, in their 
various compositions subserve us, and we also know 
that these elements are devoid of reflection, reason, or 
design ; from whence we may easily infer, that a wise, 
understsftiding, and designing being has ordained them 
to be thus subservient. Could blind chance constitute 
order and decorum, and consequently a providence ? 
That wisdom, order, and design should be the produc- 
tion of nonentity, or of chaos, confusion, and old 
night, is too absurd to deserve a serious confutation, 
for it supposeth that there may be effects without a 
cause, viz. : produced by nonentity, or that chaos and 
confusion could produce the effects of power, wisdom, 
and goodness. Such absurdities as these we must as- 
sent to, or subscribe to the doctrine of a self-existent 
and providential being. 



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ORACLES Ot SEASON. 



SECTION III. 



THE MANNER OF DBOOVERING THE MORAL PERFECTIONS AND AT- 
TRIBUTES OF GOD. 

Hatii«6 in a concise manner offered a rariety of. in- 
disputable reasons to evince the certainty of the being 
and providence of God, and of his goodness to man 
through tlie intervention rf the series of nature's op- 
erations, which are commonly described by the name 
of natural causes, we coine now more particularly to 
the consideration of his moral perfections ; and though 
all finite beings fall as much short of an adequate 
knowledge thereof as they do of perfection itself^ nev- 
ertheless through the intelligence of our own souls we 
may have something of a prospective idea of the di- 
vine perfections. For though the human mind bears 
no proportion to the divine, yet there is undoubtedly 
a resemblance between them. For instance, ' God 
knows all things, and we know some things, and in 
the things which we do understand, our knowledge 
agrees with that of the divine, and cannot fail neces- 
sarily corresponding with it. To more than know a 
thing, speaking of that thing only, is impossible even 
to omniscience itself; for knowledge is but the same 
in both the infinite and finite minds. To know a 
thing is the same as to have right ideas of it, or ideas 
according to truth, and truth is uniform in all rational 
minds, the divine mind not excepted. It will not be 
disputed but that mankind in plain and common 
matters understand justice from iiijustice, truth from 
falsehood, right from Avrong, virtue from vice, and 
praise- worthiness from blame- worthiness^ for other 

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ORACLES OF ItEASON. 9 

wise they could not be accountable creatures. This 
being admitted, we are capable of forming a complex 
idea of a moral character, which when done in the 
most deliberate, the wisest, and most rational manner 
in Dur power, we are certain bears a resemblance to 
the divine perfections. For as we learn from the 
works of nature an idea of the power and wisdom of 
God, so from our own rational nature we learn an 
idea of his moral perfections. 

Prom what has been observed on the moral perfec- 
tions of God, we infer that all rational beings, who 
have an idea of justice, goodness, and truth, have at 
the same time either a greater or less idea of the moral 
perfections of God. It is by reason that we are able 
to compound an idea of a moral character, whether 
applied to God or man ; it is that which gives us the 
supremacy over the irrational part of the creation. 



SECTION IV. 

THE CAUSE OF IDOLATRY, AND THE REMEDY OF TT. 

Inasmuch as God is not corporeal, and consequently 
does not and cannot come within the notice of our 
bodily sensations, we are therefore obliged to deduce 
inferences from his providence, and particularly from 
our own rational nature, in order to form our concep- 
tions of the divine character, which* through inatten- 
tion, want of learning, or through the natural imbe- 
cility of mankind, or through the artifice of designing 
men, or all together, they have been greatly divided 
and subdivided in their notions of a God. Many have 
so groped in the dark as wholly to mistake the proper 
1* 



10 ORACLES OF EEISON. 

object of divine worship, and not distinguishing the 
creator from his creation, have paid adoration to " four 
footed beasts and creeping things.'' And some have 
ascribed divine honors to the sun, moon, or stars; 
while others have been infatuated to worship dumb, 
senseless, and unintelligent idols, which derived thehr 
existence as Gods, partly from mechanics, who gave 
them their figure, proportion, and beauty, and partly 
from their priests, who gave them their attributes; 
whose believers, it appears, were so wrought upon, 
that they cried out in the ecstasy of their deluded zeal, 
*' Great is Diana." Whatever delusions have taken 
place in the world relative to the object of divine Avor- 
ship, or respecting the indecencies or immoralities of 
the respective superstitions themselves, or by what 
means soever introduced or perpetuated, whether by 
designing men whose interest it has always been to 
impose on the weakness of the great mass of the vul- 
gar ; or as it is probable, that part of those delusions 
took place in consequence of the weakness of unculti- 
vated reason, in deducing a visible instead of an in- 
visible God from the works of nature. Be that as it 
will, mankind are generally possessed of an idea that 
there is a God, however they may have been mistaken 
or misled as to the object. This notion of a God, as 
has been before observed, must have originated from 
a universal sense of dependence, which mankind ha've 
on something that is more wise, powerful, and benefi- 
cent than themselves, or they could have had no ap- 
prehensions of any superintending principle in the 
universe, and consequently would never have sought 
after a God, or have had any conception of his exist- 
ence, nor could designing men . have imposed on their 
creduUty by obtruding false Gods upon them; but 



OEACLES OF REASON. 11 

taking advantage of the common belief that there is a 
God, they artfully deceive their adherents with regard 
to the object to be adored. There are other sorts of 
idols which have no existence but in the mere imagi- 
nation of the human mind; and these are vastly the 
most numerous, and universally (either in the greater 
or less degree) dispersed over the world ; the wisest 
of mankind are not and cannot be wholly exempt 
from them, inasmuch as every wrong conception of 
Grod is (as far as the error takes place in the mind) 
idolatrous. To give a sample, an idea of a jealous 
God is of this sort. Jealousy is the offspring of finite 
minds, proceeding from the want of knowledge, which 
' in dubious matters makes us suspicious and distrust- 
ful; but in matters which we clearly understand, 
there can be no jealousy, for knowledge excludes it, 
so that to ascribe it to God is a manifest infringement 
on his omniscience.* 

The idea of a revengeful God is likewise one of 
that sort, but this idea of divinity being borrowed 
from a savage nature, needs no further confutation. 
The representation of a God. who (as we are told by 
certain divines) from all eternity elected an inconsid- 
erable part of mankind to eternal life, and reprobated 
the rest to eternal danuiation, merely from his own 
sovereignty, adds another to the number ; — this repre- 
sentation of the Deity undoubtedly took its rise from 
that which wer discovered in great, powerful, and 
wicked tyrants among men, however tradition may 
since have contributed to its support, though I am ap- 
prehensive that a belief in those who adhere to that 
doctrine, that they themselves constitute that blessed 

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* " The Lord thy God is a jealous God." 



12 ORACLES OF REASON. 

elect number, has been a greater inducement to them 
to close with it, than all other motives added together. 
It is a selfish and inferior notion of a God void of jus- 
tice, goodness, and truth, and has a natural tendency 
to impede the cause of true religion and morality in 
the world, and diametrically repugnant to the truth of 
the divine character, and which, if admitted to be 
true, overturns all religion, wholly precluding the 
agency of mankind in either their salvation or dam- 
nation, resolving the whole into the sovereign disposal 
of a tyrannical and unjust being, which is offensive 
to reason and common sense, and subversive of moral 
rectitude in general. But as it was not my design so 
much to confute the multiplicity of false representa-* 
tions of a God, as to represent just and consistent 
ideas of the true God, I shall therefore omit any fur- 
ther observation on them in this place, with this re- 
mark, that all unjust representations, or ideas of God, 
are so» many detractions from his character among 
mankind. To remedy these idolatrous notions of a 
God, it is requisite to form right and consistent ideas 
in their stead. 

The discovery of tnrth necessarily excludes error 
from the mind, which nothing else can possibly do ; 
for some sort of God or other will crowd itself into the 
conceptions of dependent creatures, and if they are 
not so happy as to form just ones, they will substitute 
erroneous and delusive ones in their-stead ; so that it 
serves no valuable purpose to mankind, to confute 
their idolatrous opinions concerning God, without 
communicating to them just notions concerning the 
true one, for if this is not effected, nothing is done to the 
purpose. For, as has been before observed, mankind 
will form to themselves, or receive from others, an 



ORACLES OF REASON. 13 

idea of Divinity either right or wrong : this is the 
universal voice of intelligent nature, from whence a 
weighty and conclusive argument may be drawn of 
the reality of a God, however inconsistent most of 
their conceptions of him may be. The fact is, man- 
kind readily perceives that there is a God, by feeling 
their dependence on him, and as they explore his 
works, and observe his providence, which is too sub- 
lime for finite capacities tp understand but in part, 
they have been more or less confounded in their dis- 
coveries of a just idea of a God and of his moral 
government. Therefore we should exercise great ap- 
plications and care whenever we assay to speculate 
upon the Divine character, accompanied with a sin- 
cere desire after truth, and not ascribe anything to his 
perfections or government which is inconsistent with 
reason or the best information which v/e are able to 
apprehend of moral rectitude, and be at least wise 
enough not to charge God with injustice and contra- 
dictions which we should scorn to be charged with 
ourselves. No king, governor, or parent would like 
to be accused of partiality in their respective govern* 
ments, " Is it fit to say unto Princes, ye are ungodly, 
how much less to him that rcgardeth not the persons 
of princes, or the rich more than the poor, for they 
are all the work of his hands." 
2 



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14 ORACLES OP REASON. 

CHAPTER II. 

SECTIOX I. 
OP THE ETBRNITT OF CREATION. 

As creation was the result of eternal and infinite 
wisdom, justice, goodness, and truth, and effected by 
infinite power, it is like its great author, mysterious 
to us. How it could be accomplished, or in what 
manner performed, can never be cc«nprehended by 
any capacity. 

Eternal, whether applied to duration, existence, 
action, or creation, is incomprehensible to us, but im- 
plies no contradiction in either of them; for that 
which is above comprehension we cannot perceive to 
be contradictory, nor on the other hand can we per- 
ceive its rationality or consistency. We are certain 
that God is a rational, wise, understanding Bein^ be- 
cause he has in degree made us so, and his wisdom, 
power, and goodness is visible to us in his creation, 
and government of the world. From these facts wo 
are rationally induced to acknowledge him, and not 
because we can comprehend his being, perfections, 
creation^ or providence. Could we comprehend God, 
he would cease to be what he is. The ignorant among 
men cannot comprehend the understanding of the 
wise among their own species, much less the perfec- 
tion of a God ; nevertheless, in our ratiocination upon 
the works and harmony of nature, we are obliged to 
concede to a self-existent and eternal cause of all 
things, as has been sufficiently argued, though at the 
same time it is mysterious to us, that there should be 



OllACLES OF REASON. 15 

such a being as a self-existent and eternally indepen- 
dent one; — thus we believe in God, although we 
cannot comprehend anything of the how, why or 
wherefore it was possible for him to be; and as crea- 
tion was the exertion of such an incomprehensible 
and perfect being, it must of necessary consequence 
be, in a great measure, mysterious to us. We can 
nevertheless be certain, that it has been of an equal 
eternity and infinitude of extension with God. 

Immensity being replete with creation, the omnis- 
cient, omnipresent, omnipotent, eternal, and infinite 
exertion of God in creation, is incomprehensible to 
the understanding or the weakness of man, and will 
eternally remain the prerogative of infinite penetra- 
tion, sagacity, and uncreated intelligence to understand. 



SECTION II. 

OBSERVATIONS OF MOSES'S ACCOUNT OF CREATION. 

The foregoing theory of creation and providence 
will probably be rejected by most people in this coun- 
try, inasmuch as they are prepossessed with the the- 
ology of Moses, which represents creation to have a 
beginning. '* In the beginning God created the heav- 
ens and the earth." In the preceding part of this 
chapter it has been evinced that creation and provi- 
dence could not have had a beginning, and that (hey 
are not circumscribed, but unlimited ; yet it seems 
that Moses limited creation by a prospective view of 
the heavens, or firmament from this globe, and if cre- 
ation was thus limited, it would consequently have 
circumscribed the dominion and display of the divine 



16 ORACLES OF REASON. 

providence or perfection ; but if Moses's idea of the 
creation of **the heavens and the earth," was im- 
mense, ever so many days of progressive work could 
never have finished such a boundless creation ; for a 
progressive creation is the same as a limited one ; as 
each progressive day's work would be bounded by a 
successive admeasurement, and the whole six days' 
work added together could be but local, and bear n« 
manner of proportion to infinitude, but would limit 
the dominion, and consequently the display of the di- 
vine perfections or providence, which is incompatible 
with a just idea of eternity and infinity of God, as 
has been argued in the foregoing pages. 

There are a variety of other blunders in Moses's 
description of creation, one of which I shall mention, 
which is to be found in his history of , the first and 
fourth day's work of God : *• And God said, Let there 
be light, and there was light; and God called (he 
lighi day, and the darkness he called night : and the 
evening and the morning were the first day." Then 
he proceeds to the second and third day's work, and 
so on to the sixth ; but in his chronicle of the fourth 
day's work, he says that " God made two great lights, 
the greater light to rule the day, and the lesser light 
to rule the night." This appears to be an inconsist- 
ent history of the origin of light. Day and night 
were ordamed the first day, and on the fourth day th« 
greater and less lights were made to serve the same 
purposes ; but it is likely that many errors have crept 
into his writings, through the vicissitudes of learning, 
and particularly from the corruptions of translations, 
of his as well as the writings of other ancient au- 
thors; besides, it must be acknowledged that those 
ancient writers labored under great difficulties in writr 



ORACLES OP REASON. 17 

ing to posterity, merely from the consideration of the 
infant state of learning and knowledge then in the 
world, and consequently we should not act the part of 
severe critics, with their writings, any further than to 
prevent their obtrusion on the world as being infal- 
lible. 



SECTION III. 

OF THE ETERNITY AND INFINFTUDE OF DIVINE PROVIDENCE. 

When we consider our solar system, attracted by 
its fiery centre, and moving in its several orbits, with 
regular, majestic, and periodical revolutions, we are 
charmed at the prospect and contemplation of those 
worlds of motions, and adore the wisdom and power 
by which they are attracted^ and their velocity regu- 
lated and perpetuated. And when we reflect that the 
blessings of life are derived from, and dependent on, 
the properties, qualities, constructions, proportions and 
movements, of that stupendous machine, we grate- 
fully acknowledge the divine beneficence. When we 
extend our thoughts (through our external sensations) 
to the vast regions of the starry heavens, we are lost 
in the immensity of God^s works. Some stars ap- 
pear fair and luminous, and others scarcely discerni- 
ble to the eye, which by the help of glasses make a 
brilliant appearance, bringing the knowledge of others 
far remote, within the verge of our feeble discoveries, 
which merely by the eye could not have been dis- 
cerned or distinguished. These discoveries of the 
works of God naturally prompt the inquisitive mind 
to conclude that the author of this astonishing part of 
creation which is displayed to our view, has still ex- 



18 ORACLES OF REASON. 

tended his creation ; so that if it were possible that 
any of us could be transported to the fartliest extended 
star, which is perceptible to us here, we should from 
thence survey worlds as distant from that as that is 
from this, and so on ad infinitum. 

Furthermore, it is altogether reasonable to conclude 
that the heavenly bodies, alias worlds, which move or 
are situate within the circle of our knowledge, as well 
all others throughout immensity, are each and every 
one of them possessed or inhabited by some intelligent 
agents or other, however different their sensations or 
manners of receiving or communicating their ideas 
may be from ours, or however different from each 
other. For why would it not have been as wise or 
as consistent with the perfections which we adore in 
God, to have neglected giving being to intelligence in 
this world as in those other worlds, interspersed with 
aether of various qualities in his immense creation ? 
And inasmuch as this world is thus replenished, we 
may, with the highest rational certainty infer, that as 
God has given us to rejoice, and adore him for our 
being, he has acted consistent with his goodness, in 
the display of his providence throughout the univer- 
sity of worlds. 

To suppose that God Almighty has confined his 
goodness to this world, to the exclusion of all others, 
is much similar to the idle fancies of some individuals 
in this world, that they, and those of their communion 
or faith, are the favorites of heaven exclusively ; but 
these are narrow and bigotted conceptions, which are 
degrading to a rational nature, and utterly unworthy 
of God, of whom we should form the most exalted 
ideas. 

It may be objected that a man cannot subsist in the 

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ORACLES OF REASON. 19 

snn ; but does it follow from thence, that God cannot 
or has not constituted a nature peculiar to that fiery 
region, and caused it to be as natural and necessary 
for it to suck in and breathe out flames of fire, as it 
is for us to do the like in air. Numerous are the 
kinds of fishy animals which can no other way sub- 
sist but in the water, in which other animals would 
perish, (amphibious ones excepted,) while other ani- 
mals, in a variety of forms, either swifter or slower 
move on the surface of the earth, or wing the air. Of 
these there are sundry kinds, which during the season 
of winter live without food ; and many of the insects 
which are really possessed of animal life, remain fro- 
zen, and as soon as they are let loose by the kind in- 
fluence of the sun, they again assume their wonted 
animal life ; and if animal life may difier so much in 
the same world, what inconceivable variety may be 
possible in worlds innumerable, as applicable to men- 
tal, cogitative, and organized beings. Certain it is, 
that any supposed obstructions, concerning the quality 
or temperature of any or every one of those worlds, 
could not have been any bar in the way of God Al- 
mighty, with regard to his replenishing his universal 
creation with moral agents. The unlimited perfection 
of ^God could perfectly well adapt every part of his 
creation to the design of whatever rank or species of 
constituted beings, his Godlike wisdom and goodness 
saw fit to impart existence to ; so that as there is no 
deficiency of absolute perfection in God, it is ration- 
ally demonstrative that the immense creation is re- 
plenished with rational agents, and that it has been 
eternally so, and that the display of divine goodness 
must have been as perfect and complete, in the ante- 
cedent, as it is possible to be in the subsequent etemit.y. 



20 ORACLfiS OF REASON. 

From (his theological way of arguing on the crea- 
tion and providence of God, it appears that the whole, 
which we denominate by the term nature^ which Is 
the same as creation perfectly regulated, was eternally 
connected together by the creator to answer the same 
all glorious purpose, to wit : the display of the divine 
nature, the consequences of which are existence and 
happiness to beings in general, so that creation, with 
all its productions operates according to the laws of 
nature, and is sustained by the self-existent eternal 
feause, in perfect order and decorum, agreeable to the 
eternal wisdom, unalterable rectitude, impartial jus- 
tice, and immense goodness of the divine nature, 
which is a summary of God's providence. It is from 
the established order of nature, that summer and win- 
ter, rainy and fair seasons, moonshine, refreshing 
breezes, seed time and harvest, day and night, inter- 
changeably succeed each other, and diffuse their ex- 
tensive blessings to man. Every enjoyment and 
support of life is from God, delivered to his creatures 
in and by the tendency, aptitude, disposition, and 
operation of those laws. Nature is the medium, or 
intermediate instrument through which God dispenses 
his benignity to mankind. The air we breathe in, 
the light of the sun, and the waters of the murmuring 
rills, evince his providence : and well it is, that they 
are given in so great profusion, that they cannot by 
the monopoly of the rich be engrossed from the poor. 

When we copiously pursue the study of nature, we 
are certain to be lost in the immensity of the works 
and wisdom of God ; we may nevertheless, in a vari- 
ety of things discern their fitness, happifynig ten- 
dency and sustaining quality to us ward, from all 
which, as rational and contemplative- beings we are 

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OEAGLES OF Bl^ASON. 21 

promptecl to infer, that God is universally uniform 
^nd consistent in his infinitude of creation and provi- 
dence, although we cannot comprehend all that con- 
sistency, by reason of infirmity ; yet we are morally 
9ure, of all possible plans, infinite wisdom must have 
eternally adopted the best, and infinite goodness have 
•^pproved it, and infinite power have perfected it. And 
as the good of beings in general must have been the 
ultimate end of God in his creation and government 
of his creatures, his omniscience could not fail to have 
it always present in his view. Universal nature must 
therefore be ultimately attracted to this single point, 
and infinite perfection must have eternally displayed 
itself in creation and providence. From hence we 
infer, that God is as eternal and infinite in his good- 
ness, as his self-existent and perfect nature is omnipo- 
tently great. 



SJCTION IV. 

THE PROVTOENDE OF GOD DOES NOT INTERFERE WITH THE AGENCY 
OF MAN. 

The doctrine of Fate has been made use of in armies 
as a policy to induce soldiers to face danger. Ma- 
homet taught his army that the " term of every man's 
life was fixed by God, and that none could shorten it, 
by any hazard that he might seem to be exposed to in 
battle or otherwise," but that it should be introduced 
into peaceable and civil life, and be patronized by any 
teachers of religion, is quite strange, as it subverts 
religion in general, and renders the teaching of it 
unnecessary, except among other necessary events it 
mav be premised that it is necessary they teach that 

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22 ORACLES OF. REASON. 

doctrine, and that 1 oppose it from the influence of the 
same law of fate upon which thesis we are all disput- 
ing and acting in certain necessary circles, and if so, 
I make another necessary movement, which is, to 
discharge the public teachers of this doctrine, and 
expend their salaries in an economical manner, which 
might better answer the purposes of our happiness, or 
lay it out in good wine or old spirits to make the 
heart glad, and laugh at the stupidity or cunning of 
those who would have made us mere machines. 

Some advocates for the doctrine of fate will also 
maintain that we are free agents, notwithstanding 
they tell us there has been a concatination of causes 
and events which has reached from God down to this 
time, and which will eternally be continued — that 
has and will control, and bring about every action of 
our lives, though there is not anything in nature more 
certain than that we cannot act necessarily and freely 
in the same action, and at the same time ; yet it is 
hard for such persons, who have verily believed that 
they are elected, (and thus by a predetermination of 
God become his special favorites.) to give up their 
notions of a predetermination of all events, ugon 
which system their election and everlasting happiness 
is nonsensically founded; and on the other hand, it is 
also hard for them to go so evidently against the law 
of naturn (or dictates of conscience) which intuitively 
evinces the certainty of human liberty, as to reject 
such evidence; and therefore hold to both parts of 
the contradiction, to wit, that they act necessarily, 
and freely, upon which contradictory principle they 
endeavored to maintain the dictates of natural con- 
science, and also their darling, folly of being electedly 
and exclusively favorites of God. 

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ORACLBSOF REASON. 23 



CHAPTER III. 
SECTION I. 

THE DOCTRINE OF THE INFINITY OF EVIL AND OF SIN CONSIDERED. 

That God is infinitely good in the eternal displays 
of his providence, has been argued in the third section 
of the second chapter, from which we infer that there 
cannot be an infinite evil in the universe, inasmuch as 
it would be incompatible with infinite good ; yet there 
are many who imbibe the doctrine of the infinite evil of 
sin, and the maxim on which they predicate their ar- 
guments in its support, are, that the greatness of sin, 
or adeg^uateness of its pimishment, is not to be meas- 
ured, or its viciousness ascertained by the capacity 
and circumstances of the ofiender, but by the capacity 
and dignity of the being against whom the oflfence 
is committed; and as every transgression is against 
the authority and law of God, it is therefore against 
God ; and jsisG od is infinite, therefore, sin is an infi- 
nite evil, and from hence infer the infinite and vindic- 
tfve wrath of God against sinners, and of his justice 
in dooming them, as some say to infinite, and others 
say to eternal misery; the one without degree or 
measure, and the other without end or duration. 

Admitting this maxim lor truth, that the transgres- 
sions or sins of mankind are to be estimated by their 
heinousness, by the dignity and infinity of the divine 
nature, then it will follow that all sins would be equal, 
which would confound all our notions of the degrees 
or aggravations of sin; so that the sin would be th6 
same to kill my neighbor as it would be to kill his 

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24 0¥LACL£S OFICE4SON. 

horse. For the divine nature, by this maxim, being 
the rule by which man's sin is to be estimated, and 
always the same, there could therefore be no degrees 
in sin or guilt, any more than there are degrees of 
perfection in God, whom we all admit to be infinite, 
and who for that reason only cannot admit of any de- 
grees or enlargement. Therefore as certain as there 
are degrees in sin, the infinity of the divine nature 
cannot be the standard whereby it is to be ascertained, 
which single consideration is a sufficient confutation 
of the doctrine of theqnfinite evil of sin, as predicated 
on that maxim, inasmuch as none are so stupid as not 
to discern that there are degrees and aggravations in 
sin. 

1 recollect a discourse of a learned Ecclesiastic, who 
was laboring in support of this doctrine. His first 
proposition was, " That moral rectitude was infinitely 
pleasing to God ;" from which he deduced this infer- 
ence, viz., "That a contrariety to moral rectitude 
was consequently infinitely displeasing to God and 
infinitely evil." That the absolute moral rectitude of 
the divine nature is infinitely well pleasing to God, 
will not be disputed ; for this is none other but perfect 
and infinite rectitude ; but there cannot in nature be 
an infinite contrariety thereto, or any being infinitely 
evil, or infinite in any respect whatever, except we 
admit a self-existent and infinite diabolical nature, 
which is too absurd to deserve argumentative confu- 
tation. Therefore, as all possible moral evil must re- 
sult from the agency of finite beings, consisting in 
their sinful deviations from the rules of eternal uner- 
ring order and reason, which is moral rectitude in the 
abstract, we infer that, provided all finite beings in 
the universe had not done anything else but sin and 

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oejlclesofkejlson. 25 

rebel against God, reason and moral rectitude in gene- 
ral ; all possible moral evil would fall as much short of 
being infinite, as all finite capacities, complexly con- 
sidered, would fail of being infinite, which will bear 
no proportion at all. For though finite minds, as has 
been before argued, bear a resemblance to God, yet they 
bear no proportion to his infinity ; and therefore there is 
not and cannot be any being, beings or agency of being 
or beings, complexly considered or otherwise, which are 
infinite in capacity, or which are infinitely evil and de- 
testable in the sight of God, in that unlimited sense ; 
for the actions or agency of limited beings, are also lim- 
itedy which is the same as finite : so that both the vir- 
tues and vices of man are finite ; they are not virtuous 
or vicious but in degree ; therefore moral evil is finite 
and bounded. 

Though there is one, and but one infinite good, which 
is God, and there can be no dispute, but that God judges, 
and approves or disapproves of all things and beings, 
and agencies of beings, as in truth they are, or in other 
words judges of every thing as being what it is ,• but to 
judge a finite evU to be infinite, would be infinitely erro- 
neous and disproportionable ; for so certain as there is a 
distinction between infinity and infinitude, so certain 
finite sinful agency cannot be infinitely evil; or in other 
words finite offences cannot be infinite. Nor is it possi- 
ble that the greatest of sinners should in justice deserve 
infinite punishment, or their nature sustain it; finite 
beings may as well be supposed to be capable of infinite 
happiness as of infinite misery^, but the rank which they 
hold in the universe exempts them from dther ; it nev- 
2 



26 0BJLCIȣS01'BEASOK. 

ertheless admits them to a state of agency, probation or 
trial, consequently to interchangeable progressions in 
moral good and evil, and of course to alternate happi- 
ness or misery* We will dismiss the doctrine of the 
infinite evil of sin with this observation, that as no mere 
creature can suflFer an infinitude of misery or of punish- 
ment, it is therefore incompatible with the wisdom of 
God, so £ir to capacitate creatures to sin, as in his con- 
stitution of things to foreclose himself from adequately 
punishing them for it 



SECTION n. 

THE MORAL GOVERNMENT OF GOD AS INCOMPATIBLE WITH 
ETERNAL PUNiSHMENT. 

We may for certain conclude, that such a punish- 
ment will never have the divine approbation, or be 
inflicted on any intelligent being or beings in the infini- 
tude of the government of God. For an endless pun- 
ishment defeats the very end of its institution, which in 
all wise and good governments is as well to reclaim 
offenders, as to be examples to others ; but a govern- 
ment which does not admit of reformation and repen- 
tance, must unavoidably involve its subjects in misery ; 
for the weakness of creatures will always be a source of 
error and inconstancy, and a wise Governor, as we must 
admit God to be, would suit his government to the 
capacity and all other circumstances of the governed ; 
and instead of inflicting eternal damnation on his offend- 
ing children, would rather interchangeably; extend his 

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OBACI.E8 0FBEJLS0N. 27 

beneficence with his vindictive punishments, so as to 
alienate them from sin and wickedness, and incline them 
to morality ; convincing them from experimental suflFer- 
ing, that sin and vanity are their greatest enemies, and 
that in God and moral rectitude their dependance and 
true happiness consists, and by reclaiming them from 
wickedness and error, to the truth, and to the love and 
practice of virtue, give them occasion to glorify Grod for 
the wisdom and goodness of his government, and to be ulti- 
mately happy under it. But we are told that the otemal 
damnation of a part of mankind greatly augments the 
happiness of the elect, who are represented as being 
vastly the less numerous, (a diabolical temper of mind 
in the elect :) besides, how narrow and contractive must 
such notions of infinite justice and goodness be ? "Who 
would imagine that the Deity conducts his providence 
similar to the detestable despots of this world ? Oh hor- 
rible 1 most horrible impeachment of Divine Goodness ! 
Rather let us exaltedly suppose that God eternally had 
the ultimate best good of beings generally and individu- 
ally in his view, with the reward of the virtuous and the 
punishment of the vicious, and that no other punish- 
ment will ever be infiicted, merely by the divine admin- 
istration, but that will finally terminate in the best good 
of the punished, and thereby subserve the great and 
important ends of the divine government, and be pro- 
ductive of the restoration and felicity of all finite 
rational nature. 

The most weighty arguments deducible from the 
divine nature have been already ofiered, to wit, ultimate 
end of God, in creation and providence, to do the 

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28 OBJLC££SOFB£ASQK. 

greatest possible good and benignity to beings in general, 
and consequently, tbat the great end and design of pun- 
ishment, in the divine government, must be to reclaim, 
restore, and bring revolters from moral rectitude back to 
embrace it and to be ultimately happy ; as also, that an 
eternal punishment, would defeat the very end and 
design of punishment itself; and that no good conse- 
quences to the punished could arise out of a never end- 
ing destruction ; l)ut that a total, everlasting, and irre- 
parable evil would take place on such part of the moral 
creation, as may be thus sentenced to eternal and rem- 
ediless perdition ; which would argue imperfection either 
in the creation, or moral government of God, or in both. 



SECTION IIL 

HUMAN MBBRTY, AGENCY AND ACCOUNTABILITY, CANNOT 
BE ATTENDED WITH BTEENAL CONSEQUENCES, EITHER 
GOOD OR EVIL. 

Fbom what has been argued in the foregoing section, 
it appears that mankind in this life are not agents of 
trial for eternity, but that they will eternally remain 
agents of trial. To suppose that our eternal circum- 
stances will be unalterably fixed in happiness or misery, 
in consequence of the agency or transactions of this 
temporary Ufe, is inconsistent with the moral govern- 
ment of God, and the progressive and retarospective 
knowledge of the human mind. God has not put it 
into our power to plunge eurselves into eternal woe and 
perdition; human liberty is not so extensive, for the 

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OBACLSSOFBEASON. 29 

tOTm of human life bears no proportion to eternity suc- 
ceeding it ; so that there could be no proportion between 
a momentary agency, (which is liberty of action,) or 
probation, and any supposed eternal consequences of 
happiness or misery resulting from it. Our liberty con- 
sists in our power of agency, and cannot fall short of, 
or exceed it, for liberty is agency itself, or is that by 
which agency or action is exerted ; it may be that the 
curious would define it, that agency is the eflFect of lib- 
ty, and that liberty is the cause which produces it; 
making a distinction between action and the power of 
action ; be it so, yet agency cannot surpass its liberty ; 
to suppose otherwise, would be the same as to suppose 
agency without the power of agency, or an efiiect with- 
out a cause ; therefore, as our agency does not extend 
to consequences of eternal happiness or misery, the 
power of that agency, which is Uberty, does not. Suf- 
ficient it is for virtuous minds, while in this life, that 
they keep " Consciences void of offence towards God 
and towards man,*' And that in their commencement 
in the succeeding state, they have a retrospective knowl- 
edge of their agency in this, and retain a consciousness 
of a well spent Ufe. Beings thus possessed of a habit 
of virtue, would enjoy a rational felicity beyond the 
reach of physical evils which terminate with life ; and in 
all rational probability would be advanced in the order 
of nature, to a more exalted and subUme manner of 
being, knowledge and action, than at present we can 
conceive of, where no joys or pains can approach, but of 
the mental kind ; in which elevated state virtuous minds 
will be able, in a clearer and more copious manner in 



30 0BACLES09BEAS0N. 

this life, to contemplate the superlative beauties of moral 
fitness ; and with ecstatic satisfaction enjoy it, notwith- 
standing imperfection and consequently agency, profi- 
ciency and trial, of some kind or other, must everlast- 
ingly continue with finite minds. 

And as to the vicious, who have violated the laws of 
reason and morality, lived a life of sin and wickedness, 
and are at as great a remove firom a rational happiness 
as from moral rectitude; such incorrigible sinners, at 
their commencing existence in the world of spirits, will 
undoubtedly have opened to them a tremendous scene of 
horror, self-condemnation and guilt, with an anguish of 
mind ; the more so, as no sensual delights can there, 
(as in this world,) divert the mind from its conscious 
guilt ; the clear sense of which will be the more pun- 
gent, as the mind in that state will be greatly enlarged, 
and consequently more capaciously susceptible of sorrow, 
grief, and conscious woe, from a retrospective reflection 
of a wicked Hfe. 



SECTION IV. 

OF PHYSICAL EVILS. 

Physical evils are in nature inseparable from animal 
life, they commenced existence with it, and are its con- 
comitants through life ; so that the same nature which 
gives being to the one, gives birth to the other also ; the 
one is not before or after the other, but they are co- 
existent together, and cotemporaries ; and as they began 
existence in a necessary dependance on each other, so 



OBAOLESOFBEASOK. 31 

they terminate together in death and dissolution. This 
is the original order to which animal nature is suhjected, 
as applied to every species of it. The beasts of the field, 
the fowls of the air, the fishes of the sea, with reptiles, 
and all manner of beings, which are possessed with ani- 
mal life ; nor is pain, sickness, or mortality any part of 
God's punishment for sin. On the other hand sensual 
happiness is no part of the reward of Virtue : to reward 
moral actions with a glass of wine or a shoulder of mut- 
ton, would be as inadequate, as to measure a triangle 
with soimd, for virtue and vice pertain -to the mind, and 
their merits or demerits have their just efiects on the 
conscience, as has been before evinced : but animal grati- 
fications are common to the human race indiscriminately* 
and also, to the beasts of the field : and physical evils as 
promiscuously and universally extend to the whole, so 
*^ That there is no knowing good or evil by all that is 
before us, for all is vanity, ^^ It was not among the 
number of possibles, that animal life should be exempted 
from mortality : omnipotence itself could not have made 
it capable of eternalization and indissolubility ; fot the 
eelf same nature which constitutes animal Hfe, subjects 
it to decay and dissolution ; so that the one cannot be 
without the other, any more than there could be a com- 
pact number of mountains without vallies, or that I 
could exist and not exist at the same time, or that God 
should effect any other contradiction in nature ; all con- 
tradictions being equally impossible, inasmuch* as they 
imply an absolute incompatibility with nature and truth ; 
for nature is predicated on truth, and the same truth 
which constitutes mountains, made the /Vallies at the 

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32 0BACL£8OFB£A8OK* 

sanie time ; nor is it possible that they could have a sep- 
arate existence. And the same truth which affirms my 
existence, denies its negative ; so also the same law of 
nature, which in truth produceth an animal life and 
supports it for a season, wears it out, and in its natural 
course reduces it to its original elements again. The 
vegetable world also presents us with a constant aspect 
of productions and dissolutions ; and the bustle of ele- 
ments is beyond all conception ; but the dissolution of 
forms is not the dissolution of matter, or the annihilation 
of it, nor of the. creation, which exists in all possible 
forms and fluxilities ; and it is from such physical altera- 
tions of the particles of matter, that animal or vegeta- 
ble life is produced and destroyed. Elements afford them 
nutrition, and time brings them to maturity, decay and 
dissolution ; and in all the prolific production of animal 
life, or the productions of those of a vegetative nature, 
throughout all their growth, decay and dissolution, 
make no addition or diminution of creation ; but eternal 
nature continues its never ceasing operations, (which in 
most respects are mysterious to us) under the unerring 
guidance of the providence of God. 

Animal nature consists of a regular constitution of a 
variety of organic parts, which have a particular and 
necessary dependance on each other, by the mutual 
assistance whereof the whole are animated. Blood 
seems to be the source of life, and it is requisite that 
it have a proper circulation from the heart to the extreme 
parts of the body, and from thence to the heart again, 
that it may repeat its temporary rounds through certain 
arteries and veins, which replenish every minutia part 

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ORACLES OF SEASON. 



33 



with blood and vital heat ; but the brain is evidently the 
seat of sensation, which through the nervous system 
conveys the animal spirits to every part of the body, 
imparting to it sensation and motion, constituting it a 
living machine, which could never have been produced, 
or exercised its respective functions in any other sort of 
world but this ; which is in a constant ^series of fluxili- 
ties, and which causeth it to produce food for its inhab- 
itants. An unchangeable world could not admit of pro- 
duction or dissolution, but would be identically the 
same, which would preclude the existence and nutriment 
of such sensitive creatures as we are. The nutrition 
extracted from food 1)y the secret aptitudes of the di- 
gesting powers (by which mysterious operation it be- 
comes incorporated with the circulating juices, supplying 
the animal functions with vital heat, strength and vigor) 
demands a constant flux and reflux of the particles of 
matter, which is perpetually incorporating with the 
body, and supplying the place of the superfluous par-^ 
tides that are constantly discharging themselves by 
insensible prespiration ; supporting, and at the same 
time, in its ultimate tendency, destroying animal life. 
Thus it manifestly appears, that the laws of the world 
in which we live, and the constitution of the animal 
nature of man, are all but one uniform arrangement of 
cause and efiect ; and as by the course of those laws, 
animal life is propagated and sustained for a season, so 
by the operation of the same laws, decay and mortality 
are the necessary consequences. 

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34 OBACLESOFBEASON. 

CHAPTER IV. 
SECTION I. 

SPECULATION ON THE DOCTRINE OF THE DEPKAVITY OF 
HUMAN REASON. 

In the course of our speculation on Dirine Provi- 
dence we proceed next to the consideration of the doc- 
trine of the depravity of human reason : a doctrine 
derogatory to the nature of man, and the rank and 
character of being which he holds in the universe, and 
which, if admitted to be true overturns knowledge and 
science and renders learning, instruction and books use- 
less and impertinent ; inasmuch as reason, depraved or 
spoiled, would cease to be reason ; as much as the mind 
of a raving madman would of course cease to be ra- 
tional : admitting the depravity of reason, the conse- 
quence would unavoidably follow, that as far as it may 
be supposed to have taken place in the midst of man- 
kind, there could be no judges of it, in consequence of 
their supposed depravity; for without the exercise of 
reason, we could not understand what reason is, which 
would be necessary for us previously to understand, in 
order to understand what it is not ; or to distinguish it 
from that which is its reverse. But for us to have the 
knowledge of what reason is, and the ability to distin- 
guish it from that which is depraved, or is irrational, is 
incompatible with the doctrine of the depravity of our 
reason. Inasmuch as to understand what reason is, and 
to distinguish it from that which is marred or spoiled, is 
the fame to all intents and purposes, as to have, exerdse 



OBACLESOFBEABOK. 35 

and enjoy, the principle of reason itself, which precludes 
its supposed depravity : so that it is impossible for us to 
understand what reason is, and at the same time deter- 
mine that our reason is depraved ; for this would be the 
same as when we know that we are in possession and 
exercise of reason, to determine that w;e are not in pos- 
session or exercise of it. 

It may be, that some who embrace the doctrine of the 
depravity of human reason, will not admit that it is 
wholly and totally depraved, but that it is in a great 
measure marred or spoiled. But the foregoing argu- 
ments are equally applicable to a supposed depravity in 
parts, as in the whole ; for in order to judge whether 
reason be depraved in part or not, it would be requisite 
to have an tmderstanding of what reason may be sup- 
posed to have been, previous to its premised depravity ; 
and to have such a knowledge of it, would be the same 
as to exercise and enjoy it in its lustre and purity, which 
would preclude the notion of a depravity in part, as well 
as in the whole ; for it would be utterly impossible for 
us to judge of reason undepraved and depraved, but by 
comparing them together. But for depraved reason to 
make such a comparison, is contradictory and impossible; 
so that, if our reason had been depraved, we could not 
have had any conception of it any more than a beast. 
Men of small Acuities in reasoning cannot comprehend 
the extensive reasonings of their superiors, how then 
can a supposed depraved reason comprehend that rea" 
son which is imcorrupted and pure ? To suppose that it 
could, is the same as to suppose that depraved and unde- 
praved reason is alike, and if so, there needs no farther 
dispute about it. 



36 O BA CLES OF BEASOK, 

There is a manifest contradiction in appljdng the term 
depraved to that ^of reason^ the ideas contained in their 
respective definitions will not admit of their association 
together, as the terms convey heterogeneous ideas ; for 
reason spoiled, marred, or ijobbed of its perfection, ceas- 
eth to be rational, and should not be called reason ; inas- 
much as it is premised to be depraved, or degenerated 
from a rational nature ; and in consequence of the de- 
privation of its nature, should also be deprived of its 
name, and called subterfuge, or some such like name^ 
vhich might better define its real character. 

Those who invalidate reason, ought seriously to con- 
sider, '^ whether they argus against reason, with or with- 
out reason ; if with reason, then they establish the prin- 
cipk^ that they are laboring to dethrone : " but if they 
argue without reason, (which, in order to be consistent 
with themselves, they must do,) they are out of the reach 
of rational conviction, nor do they deserve a rational 
argument. 

We are told that the knowledge of the depravity of 
reason, was first communicated to mankind by the imme- 
diate inspiration of God. But inasmuch as reason is 
supposed to be depraved, what principle could there be 
in the human irrational soul, which could receive or un- 
derstand the inspiration, or on which it could operate so 
as to represent to those whom it may be supposed were 
inspired, the knowledge of the depravity of (their own, 
and mankind's) reason (in general :) for a rational in- 
spiration must consist of rational ideas, which pre-sup- 
poses that the minds of those who were inspired, were 
rational previous to such inspiration^ which would be a 



ORACLKSOFBEASOK. 37 

downright contradiction to the inspiration itself; the 
import of which was to teach the knowledge of the de- 
pravity of human reason, which without reason could 
not be understood, and with reason it would be under- 
stood, that the inspiration was false. 

Will any advocates for the depravity of reason sup- 
pose, that inspiration ingrafts or superadds the essence of 
reason itself to the himian mind ? Admitting it to be 
so, yet such inspired persons could not understand any 
thing of reason, before the reception of such supposed 
inspiration; nor would such a premised inspiration 
prove to its possessors or receivers, that their reason had 
ever been depraved. All that such premised inspired 
persons could understand, or be conscious of, respecting 
reason, would be after the inspiration may be supposed 
to have taken effect, and made them rational beings, 
and then instead of being taught by inspiration, that 
their reason had been previously depraved, they couli 
have had no manner of consciousness of the existence 
or exercise of it, until the impairing the principle of it 
by the supposed energy of inspiration ; nor could such 
supposed inspired persons- communicate the knowledge 
of such a premised revelation to others of the species, 
who for want of a rational nature, could not be supposed, 
on this position^ to be able to receive the impressions of 
reason. 

That there are degrees in the knowledge of rational 
beings, and also in their capacities to acquire it, cannot 
be disputed, as it is so very obvious among mankind. 
But in all the retrospect gradations from the exalted 
reasonings of a Locke or a Newton, down to the lowest 



38 ORACLESOrREASON. 

exercise of it among the species, still it is reason, and 
not depraved ; for a less degree of reason by no means 
implies a depravity of it. nor does the imparting of rea- 
son argue its depravity, for what remains of reason, or 
rather of the exercise bf it, is reason still. But there is 
not, and cannot be such a thing as depraved reason, for 
that which is rational is so, and for that reason cannot 
be depraved, whatever its degree of exercise may be 
supposed to be. 

A blow on the head, or fracture of the cranium, as 
also palsies and many other casualties that await our 
sensorium, retard, and in some cases wholly prevent the 
exercise of reason for a longer or shorter period ; and 
sometimes through the stage of human life ; but in such 
instances as these, reason is not depraved, but ceases in a 
greater or less degree, or perhaps wholly ceases its ra- 
tional exertions or operations ; by reason of the breaches 
or disorders of the organs of sense, but in such instan- 
ces, wherein the organs become rectified, and the senses 
recover their usefulness, the exercise of reason returns, 
free from any blemish or depravity. For the cessation 
of the exercise of reason, by ho means depraves it. 

From what has been argued on this subject, in this 
and the preceding chapters, it appears that reason is not 
and cannot be depraved, but that it bears a likeness to 
divine reason, is of the same kind, and in its own nature 
as uniform as truth, which is the test of it ; though in 
the divine essence, it is eternal and infinite, but in man 
it is eternal only as it respects their immortality, and finite 
as it respects capaciousness. Such people as can be pre- 
vailed upon to believe, that their reason is depraved. 



OBACLESOFBEASOK. 39 

may easily be led by the nose, and duped into supersti- 
tion at the pleasure of those in whom they confide, and 
there remain from generation to generation : for when 
they throw by the law of reason the only one which God 
gave them to direct them in their speculations and duty, 
they are exposed to ignorant or insiduous teachers, and 
also to their own irregular passions, and to the folly and 
enthusiasm of those about them, which nothing but rea- 
son can prevent or restrain : nor is it a rational supposi- 
tion that the commonality of mankind would ever have 
mistrusted that their reason was depraved, had they not 
been told so, and it is whispered about, that the first 
insinuation of it was from the Priests; (though the 
Armenian Clergymen in the circle of my acquaintance 
have exploded the doctrine.) Should we admit the de- 
pravity of reason, it would equally affect the priesthood, 
or any other teachers of that doctrine, with the rest of 
mankind; but for depraved creatures to receive and 
give credit to a depraved doctrine, started and taught by 
depraved creatures, is the greatest weakness and folly 
imaginable, and comes nedrer a proof of the doctrine of 
total depravity, than any arguments which have been 
advanced in support of it. 



y Google 



40 ORACLESOFBEASOK 



SECTION IL 



CONTAINING A DISQUISITION OF THE LAW OF NATURE, AS IT 
RESPECTS THE MORAL SYSTEM, INTERSPERSED WITH 
OBSERVATIONS ON SUBSEQUENT RELIGIONS. 

That mankind are by nature endowed with sensation 
and reflection, from which results the power of reason 
and understanding, will not be disputed. The senses 
are well calculated to make discoveries of external objects 
and to communicate those notices, or simple images of 
things to the mind, with all the magnificent simplicity 
of nature, which opens an extensive field of contempla- 
tion to the understanding, enabling the mind to examine 
into the natural causes and consequences of things, and 
to investigate the knowledge of moral good and evil, 
from which, together with the power of agency, results 
the human conscience. This is the original of moral 
obligation and accountability, which is called natural 
religion ; for without the understanding of truth fr'om 
falsehood, and right from wrong, which is the same as 
justice from injustice, and a liberty of agency, which is 
the same as a power of proficiency in either moral good 
or evil : mankind would not be rational or accountable 
creatures. Undoubtedly it was the ultimate design of 
our Creator, in giving us being, and furnishing us with 
those noble compositions of mental powers and sensitive 
aptitudes, that we should, in, by, and with that nature, 
serve and honor him ; and with those united capaci- 
ties, search out and understand our duty to him, and to 
one another, with the ability of practising the same as 



0XACLE8 0FBEAS0K. 41 

fer as may be necessary for us in this life. To object 
against the sufficiency of natural religion, to effect the 
best ultimate good of mankind, would be derogating 
from the wisdom, goodness, and justice of God, who in 
the course of his providence to us, has adopted it : be- 
sides, if natural religion may be supposed to be deficient, 
what security can we have that any subsequently re- 
vealed religion should not be so also ? For why might 
not a second religion from God be as insufficient or de- 
fective as a first religion may be supposed to be ? From 
hence we infer that if natural religion be insufficient to 
dictate mankind in the way of their duty aud make 
them ultimately happy, there is an end to religion in 
general. But as certain as God is perfect in wisdom and 
goodness, natural religion is sufficient and complete ; and 
having had the divine approbation, and naturally re- 
sulting from a rational nature, is as universally promul- 
gated to mankind as reason itself. But to the disad- 
vantage of the claim of all subsequent religions, called 
revelations, whether denominated inspired, external, su- 
pernatural, or what not, they came too late into the 
world to be essential to the well being of mankind, or 
to point out to them the only way to heaven and ever- 
lasting blessedness : inasmuch as lor the greatest part of 
mankind who have ever lived in this world, have de- 
parted this life previous to the eras and promulgations of 
such revelations. Besides, those subsequent revelations 
to the law of nature, began as human traditions have 
ever done in very small circumferences, in the respective 
parts of the world where they have been inculcated, and 
made their progress, as time, chance, and opportunity 

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42 OBAOLES OF BEASOK. 

presented. Does this look like the contrivance of heaven, 
and the only way of salvation ? Or is it not more like 
this world and the contrivance of man ? Undoubtedly 
the great parent of mankind laid a just an :1 sufficient 
foundation of salvation for every one of them ; for other- 
wise such of them, who may be supposed not to be thus 
provided for would not have whereof to glorify God for 
their being, but on the contrary would have just matter 
of complaint against his providence or moral govern- 
ment for involuntarily necessitating them into a wretched 
and miserable existence, and that without end or remedy : 
which would be ascribing to God a more extensive injus- 
tice than is possible to be charged on the most barbarous 
despots that ever were among mankind. 

But to return to our speculations on the law of nature. 
That this divine Law surpasses all positive institutions, 
that have ever been ushered into the world since its crea- 
tion as much as the wisdom and goodness of God exceeds 
that of man, is beautifully illustrated in the following 
quotation : " But it may be said what is virtue ? It is 
the faithful discharge of those obligations which reason 
dictates. And what is wisdom itself, but a portion of in- 
telligence ? with which the creator has furnished us, in 
order to direct us in our duty ? It may be further asked, 
what is this duty ? whence does it result ? and by what 
law is it prescribed ? I answer that the law which pre- 
scribed it is the immutable will of God ; to which right 
reason obliges us to conform ourselves, and in this con- 
formity virtue consists. No law which has commenced 
since the creation, or which may ever cease to be in force, 
can constitute virtue ; for before the existence of such a 



ORACLES OF REASON. 43 

law, mankind could not be bound to observe it ; but they 
were certainly under an obligation to be virtuous from the 
beginning. Princes may make Jaws and repeal them, 
but they can neither make nor destroy virtue, and how 
indeed should they be able to do what is impossible to 
the Deity himself? Virtue being as immutable in its na- 
ture as the divine will which is the ground of it.* 

A Prince may command his subjects to pay taxes or 
subsidies, may forbid them to export certain commodi- 
ties, or to introduce those of a foreign country. The faith- 
ful observance of these laws make obedient subjects, but 
does not make virtuous men ; and would any one seri- 
ously think himself possessed of a virtue the more for not 
having dealt in painted calico; or if the Prince should 
by his authority abrogate these laws, would any one say 
he had abrogated virtue ? It is thus with all positive 
laws ; they all had a beginning — are all liable to excep- 
tions, and may be dispensed with and even abolished. 
That law alone which is engraven on our hearts by the 
hand of our creator, is unchangeable and of universal and 
eternal obUgation. The law, says Cicero, is not a hu- 
man invention, nor an arbitrary political institution, it is 
in its nature eternal and of universal obUgation. The 

♦ Virtue did not derire iti nature merely from the omnipotent will of 
God, but also from the eternal truth and moral fitness of things; which 
was the eternal reason why they were eternally approved of by God, and 
immutably established by him, to be what they are ; and so far as our duty 
is counected with those eternal measures of moral fitness, or we are able 
to act on them, we give such actions or habits the name of virtue or 
morality. But when we, in writing or conversation, say that virtue is 
grounded on the divine will, we should at the same time include in the 
complex idea of it, that the divine will which constituted virtue, was 
rternally and infinitely reasonable. ^. _ ^^ .,GoOgle 



44 OBACLSSOFBEASOK. 

violence Tarquin offered to Lncretia, was a breach of that 
eternal law, and though the Romans at that time might 
have no written law which condemned such kind of 
crimes, his offence was not the less heinous ; for this law 
of reason did not then begin, when it was first committed 
to writing ; its original is as ancient as the divine mind. 
For the true, primitive and supreme law, is no other than 
the unerring reason of the great Jupiter. And in anoth- 
er place he says, this law is founded in nature, it is uni- 
versal, immutable, and eternal, it is subject to no change 
from any difference of place, or time, it extends invaria- 
bly to all ages and nations, like the sovereign dominion 
of that Being, who is author of it.'* 

The promulgation of this supreme law to creatures, is 
co-extensive and co-existent with reason, and binding on 
all intelligent beings in the universe ; and is that eternal 
rule «f fitness, as applicable to God, by which the crea- 
tor of all things conducts his infinitude of providence, 
and by which he governs the moral system of being, ac- 
cording to the absolute perfection of his nature. From 
hence we infer, that admitting those subsequent jrevela- 
tions, which have more or less obtained credit in the world, 
as the inspired laws of God, to be consonant to the laws 
of nature, yet they could be considered as none other but 
mere transcripts therefrom, promulgated to certain favor- 
ite nations, when at the same time all mankind was fa- 
vored with the original. 

The moral precepts contained in Moses' decalogue to 
the people of Israel, was previously known to every na- 
tion under heaven, and in all probability by them as much 
practised as by the tribes of Israel. Their keeping the 

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OSACZ.ESOFBSAS0ir. 45 

seyenth day of the week as a sabbath was an arbitrary 
imposition of Moses, (as many other of his edicts were) 
and not included in the law of nature. But as to such 
laws of his, or those of any other legislator, which are 
morally fit, agree with, and are a part of the natural law, 
as for instance ; ^* Thou shalt not covet," or ^^ kill." 
These positive injunctions cannot add anything to the law 
of nature, inasmuch as it contains an entire and perfect 
system of morality ; nor can any positive injunctions or 
commands enforce the authority of it, or confer any addi- 
tional moral obligation on those to whom they are given 
to obey ; the previous obligation of natural religion, hav- 
ing ever been as binding as reason can possibly conceive 
of, or the order and constitution of the moral rectitude of 
things, as resulting from Grod, can make it to be. 

To illustrate the argument of the obHgatory nature of 
the natural law let us reverse the commandments of the 
decalogue, by premising that Moses had said thou shalt 
covet ; thou shalt steal and murder ; would any one con- 
clude, that the injunctions would have been obligatory ? 
surdy they would not, for a positive command to violate 
the law of nature could not be binding on any rational 
being. How then came the injunctions of Moses, or any 
others, to be binding in such cases, in which they coincide 
with the law of nature ? We answer, merely in conse- 
quence of the obligatory sanctions of the natural law, 
which does not at all depend on the authority of Moses or 
of any other legislator, short of him who is eternal and 
infinite ; nor is it possible that the Jews, who adhere to 
the law of Moses, should be under greater obligation to ' 
Uie mtoral law, than the Japanese; ortheChristians than 

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46 OBACLESOFBEASOK. 

the Chinese ; for the same God extends the game moral 
government over universal rational nature, independent 
of Popes, Priests and Levites. But with respect to all 
mere positive institutions, injunctions, rites and ceremo- 
nies, that do not come within the jurisdiction of the law 
o^ nature, they are political matters, and may be enacted, 
perpetuated, dispensed with, abolished, re-enacted, com- 
pounded or diversified, as conveniency, power, opportu- 
nity, inclination, or interest, or all together may dictate ; 
inasmuch as they are not foimded on any stable or uni- 
versal principle of reason, but change with the customs, 
fashions, traditions and revolutions of the world ; having 
no centre of attraction, but interest, power and advanta- 
ges of a temporary nature. 

Was the creator and governor of the universe to erect 
a particular academy of arts and sciences in this world, 
under his immediate inspection, with tutors rightly or- 
ganized, and intellectually qualified to carry on the busi- 
ness of teaching, it might hke other colleges, (and possi- 
bly in a superior manner,) instruct its scholars. But that 
God should have given a revelation of his will to man- 
kind, as his law, and to be continued to the latest poster- 
ity as such, which is premised to be above the capacity of 
their understanding, is contradictory and in its own na- 
ture impossible. Nor could a revelation to mankind, 
which comes within the circle of their knowledge, be ed- 
ifying or instructing to them, for it is a contradiction to 
call that which is above my comprehension, or that which 
I already, (from natural sagacity) understand, a revelation 
^ to me : to tell me, or inspire me, with the knowledge of 
that which I knew before, would reveal nothing to me, 

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OBACXES OF REASON. 47 

and to reveal that to me which is supernatural or above 
my comprehension, is contradictory and impossible. But 
the truth of the matter is, that mankind are restricted by 
the law of nature to acquire knowledge or science pro- 
gressively, as before argued. From which we infer the 
impropriety, and consequently the impossibility of God's 
having ever given us any manuscript copy of his eternal 
law : for that to reveal it at first would bring it on a 
level with the infancy of knowledge then in the world, 
or (fishermen, shepherds, and illiterate people could not 
have understood it,) which would have brought it so low 
that it could not be instructive or beneficial to after gen- 
erations in their progressive advances in science and wis- 
dom. 



CHAPTER V. 
SECTION I. 

ARGUMENTATIVE REFLECTIONS ON SUPERNATURAL AND 
MYSTERIOUS REVELATION IN GENERAL. 

There is not anything which has contributed so much 
to delude mankind in religious matters, as mistaken ap- 
prehensions concerning supernatural inspiration or reve- 
lation ; not considering that all true religion originates 
from reason, and can no otherwise be understood but by 
the exercise and improvement of it ; therefore they are 
apt to confuse their minds with such inconsistencies. In 
the subsequent reasonings on this subject, we shall argiie 
against supernatural revelation in general, which will 
comprehend the doctrine of inspiration or immediate illu- 
mination of the mind. And first — we will premise, that 

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48 ORACLES OF SEASON. 

a revelation consists of an assemblage of rational ideas, 
in*^elligibly arranged and understood by those to whom it 
may^be supposed to be revealed, for otherwise it could 
not exist in their minds as such. To suppose a revela- 
tion, void of rationality or understanding, or of commu- 
nicating rational intelligence to those, to whom it may be 
supposed to be given, would be a contradiction ; for that 
it could contain nothing except it were unintelligibleness 
which would be the same as to reveal and not to reveal ; 
therefore, a revelation must consist of an assemblage of 
rational ideas, intelUgibly communicated to those who are 
supposed to have been the partakers or receivers of it 
from the first supposed inspiration, down to this or any 
other period of time. But such a revelation as this, 
could be nothing more or less than a transcript of the law 
of nature, predicated on reason, and would be no more 
supernatural, than the reason of man may be supposed to 
be. The simple definition of supernatural is, that which 
is " beyond or above the powers of nature," which never 
was or can be understood by mankind ; the first promul- 
gators of revelation not excepted ; for such revelation, 
doctrine, precept or instruction only, as comes within the 
powers of our nature, is capable of being apprehended, 
contemplated or understood by us, smd such as does not, 
is to us incomprehensible and imknown, and consequent- 
ly cannot for us compose any part of revelation. 

The author of human nature impressed it with certain 
sensitive aptitudes and mental powers, so that apprehen- 
sion, reflection or understanding could no otherwise be 
exerted or produced in the compound nature of man, but 

in the order prescribed l^ the creator. It would there- 
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OBACLE8 0FBEA8OK. 49 

fore be a contradiction in nature, and consequently im- 
possible for God to inspire, infuse, or communicate the 
apprehension, reflection or understanding of any thing 
whatever into human nature, out of, above, or beyond 
the natural aptitudes, and mental powers of that nature^ 
which was of his own production and constitution ; for it 
would be the same as to inspire, infuse, or reveal appre- 
hension, reflection or understanding, to that which is not ; 
inasmuch as out of, beyond or above the powers of na- 
ture, there could be nothing to operate upon, as a pre- 
requisite principle to receive the inspiration or infusion 
of the revelation, which might therefore as well be in- 
i^ired into, or revealed to nonentity, as to man. For the 
essence of man is that, which we denominate to be his 
nature, out of or above which he is as void of sensation, 
apprehension, reflection and understanding, as nonentity 
may be supposed to be ; therefore such revelation as is 
adapted to the nature and capacity of man, and comes 
within his powers of perception and imderstanding, is the 
only revelation, which he is able to receive from God or 
man. Supernatural revelation is as applicable to beasts, 
birds and fishes, as it is to us ; for neither we nor they 
are capable of being acted upon supematurally, as all the 
possible exertions and operations of nature, which respect 
die natural or moral world, are truly natural Nor does 
God deviate from his rectitude of nature in matters of 
inspiration, revelation or instruction to the moral world, 
any more than in that of his government of the natural. 
The infinitude of the wisdom of God's creation, provi- 
dence and moral government will eternally remain su- 
pematoral to all finite capacities, and for that very reasoa 

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50 OBACLESOl'BEASOS* 

we can never arrive to the comprehension of it, in any 
state of being and improvement whatever ; inasmuch as 
progression can never attain to that which is infinite, so 
that an eternal proficiency in knowledge could not be su- 
pernatural, but on the other hand would come within the 
limits and powers of our nature, for otherwise such pro- 
ficiency would be impossible to us ; nor is this infinite 
knowledge of God supernatural to him, for that his per- 
fection is also infinite. But if we could break over the 
limits of our capacity, so as to understand any cme super- 
natural thing, which is above or beyond the power of our 
natures, we might by that rule as well understand all 
things, and thus by breaking over the confines of finite 
nature and the rank of being which we hold in the uni- 
verse, comprehend the knowledge of infinity. Frona 
hence we infer, that every kind and degree ef apprehen- 
sion, reflection and understanding, which we can attain 
to in any state of improvement wbatever, is no more su- 
pernatural than the nature of man, fr<Hn whence percep- 
tion and understanding is produced, may be supposed to 
be so : nor has or could God Almighty ever have reveal- 
ed himself to mankind in any other way or manner^ but 
what is truly natural. 



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40BACLES OP B£ASON. 51 



SECTION 11. 



CONTAINING OBSERVATIONS ON THE PROVIDENCE AND AGEN- 
CY OF GOD, AS IT RESPECTS THE NATURAL AND MORAL 
WORLD/WITH STRICTURES ON REVELATION IN GENERAL. 

The idea of a God we infer from our experimental de- 
pendence on something superior to ourselves in wisdom, 
power and goodness, which we call God ; our senses dis- 
cover to us the works of God which we call nature, and 
which is a manifest demonstration of his invisible essence. 
Thus it is from the works of nature that we deduce the 
knowledge of a God, and not because we have, or can 
have any immediate knowledge of, or revelation fpom 
him. But on the other hand, all our imderstanding of, 
or intelligence from God, is communicated to us by the 
intervention of natural causes^ (which is not of the divine 
essence ;) this we denominate to be natural revelation, for 
that it is mediately made known to us by our senses, and 
from our sensations of external objects in general, so that 
all and every part of the imiverse, of which we have any 
conception, is exterior from the nature or essence of God ; 
nor is it in the nature of things possible for us to receive, 
or for God to communicate any inspiration or revelation 
to us, but by the instrumentality of intermediate causes, 
as has been before observed. Therefore all our notions 
of the immediate interposition of divine illuminations, in- 
spiration, or infusion of ideas or revelations into our 
minds, is mere enthusiasm and deception ; for that neith- 
er the divine mind, nor those of any finite intelligences 
can make any representation to, or impression on our ex- 

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52 OBACLESOFB£ASOK. 

temal senses without the assistance of some adequate, in- 
termediate cause. The same is the case between man 
and man, or with mankind in general ; we can no other- 
wise hold a correspondence but by the aptitude, and 
through the medium of our senses. Since this is the 
only possible way in nature by which we can receive any 
notices, perceptions, or intelligence from God or man. 

Nothing can be more unreasonable than to suppose, 
because God is infinitely powerful, that he can therefore 
inspire or infuse perception, reflection or revelation into 
the mind of man in such a way or manner as is incom- 
patible with the aptitudes and powers of their nature : 
such a revelation would be as impossible to be revealed 
by God, as by a mere creature. For though it is a max- 
im of truth, '* That with God all things are possible," 
yet it should be considered, that contradictions, and con- 
sequently impossibilities are not comprehended in the defi- 
nition of things, but are diametrically the reverse of them, 
as may be seen in the definition of the word things, to 
wit : *' whatever is.*' There is no contradiction in na- 
ture or truth, which comprehends or contains all things, 
therefore the maxim is just, *' That with God all things 
are possible," viz : all things in nature are possible with 
God ; but contradictions are falsehoods which have no 
positive existence, but are the negatives to things, or to 
nature, which comprehends, *' Whatever is;" so that 
contradictions are opposed to nature and truth, and are 
no THINGS, but the chimeras of weak, unintelligent minds 
who make false application of things to persons, or as- 
cribe such powers, qualities, dispositions and aptitudes to 
things as nature never invested them with ; such are our 

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ORACLES OF BXASOir. 53 

deluded notions of the immediate operations of the holy 
spirit, or of any mere spirit, on our minds independent 
of the intervention of some adequate, natural or interme- 
diate cause. To make a triangle four square, or to make 
a variety of mountains contiguously situated, without val- 
' lies, or to give existence to a thing and not to give exis- 
tence to it at the same time, or to reveal anything to ixs 
incompatible with our capacity of receiving the percep- 
tion of it, pertains to those negatives to nature and truth, 
and are not things revealed, nor have they any positive 
existence as has been before argued ; for they are incon- 
sistent with themselves, and the relations and effects 
which they are supposed to have upon and with each oth- 
er. It derogates nothing froia the power and absolute 
perfection of God that he cannot make both parts of a 
contradiction to be true. 

But let us reverse the position concerning revelation, 
and premise that it is accommodated to our capacity of 
receiving and understanding it, and in this case it would 
be natural, and therefore possible for us to receive and 
understand it ; for the same truth which is predicated on 
the sufficiency of our capacity to receive and understand 
a revelation, affirms at the same time the possibility of 
our receiving and understanding it. But to suppose that 
God can make both parts of a contradiction to be true, to 
reveal and not reveal, would be the same as ascribing a 
falsehood to him and to call it by the name of power. 

That God can do anything and everything, that is con- 
sonant to his moral perfections, and which does not im- 
ply a contradiction to the nature of the things themselves, 
and the essential relation which they bear to^each other. 

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54 OBACLESOFBEASOK. 

none will dispute. But to suppose, that inasmucli as 
God is all-powerful, he can therefore do everything, 
which we in our ignorance of nature or of moral fitness 
may ascribe to him, without understanding, whether it 
is either consonant to moral rectitude, or to the nature of 
the things themselves, and the immutable irelations and 
connections which they bear to each other, or not, is great 
weakness and folly. That God cannot in th^ exercise of 
his providence or moral government, counteract the per- 
fections of his nature, or do any manner of injustice, is 
manifestly certain ; nolr is it possible for God to eflfect a 
contradiction in the natural world, any more than in the 
moral. The impossibility of the one results fi:om the 
\ moral perfections of God, and the impossibility of the 
other firom the immutable properties, qualities, relations 
and nature of the things themselves, as in the instances 
of the mountains, vallies, &c., before alluded to, and in 
numberless other such hke cases. 

Admitting a revelation to be from God, it must be 
allowed to be infallible, therefore those to whom it may 
be supposed to have been first revealed from God, must 
have had an infallible certainty of their inspiration : so 
likewise the rest of mankind, to whom it is proposed as 
a Diviue Law, or rule of duty, should have an infallible 
certainty, that its first promulgators were thus truly 
inspired by the immediate interposition of the spirit of 
God, and that the revelation has been preserved through 
all the changes and revolutions of the world to their 
time, and that the copies extant present them with its 
original inspiration and unerring composure, or are per- 
fectly agreeable to it. All this we must have an infalli- 



OSACLESOFBEASOlf. 55 

ble certainty of, or we fail of an infallible certainty of 
revelation, and are liable to be imposed upon by impos- 
tors, or by ignorant and insidious teachers, whose interest 
it may be to obtrude their own systems on the world for 
infallible truth, as in the instance of Mahomet. 

But let us consult our own constitutions and the world 
in which we Hve, and we shall find that inspiration is, in 
the very nature of things, impossible to be understood 
by us, and of consequence not in fact true. What cer- 
tainty can we have of the agency of the divine mind on 
ours ? Or how can we distinguish the supposed divine 
illuminations or ideas from those of our own which are 
natural to us ? In order for us to be certain of the 
interposition of immediate divine inspiration in our minds 
we must be able to analyze, distinguish, and distinctly 
separate the premised divine reflections, illuminations or 
inspiration from our own natural cogitations, for other- 
wise we should be liable to mistake our reflections and 
reasonings for God's inspiration, as is the case with 
enthusiasts, or fanatics, and thus impose on ourselves, 
and obtrude our romantic notions on mankind, as God's 
revelation. 

None will, it is presumed, pretend that the natural 
reflections of our minds are dictated by the immediate 
agency of the divine spirit ; for if they were thus dic- 
tated, they would be of equal authority with any sup- 
posed inspired revelation. How then shall we be able 
to distinguish or understand our natural perceptions, 
reflections or reasonings, from any premised immediately 
inspired ones ? Should God make known to us, or to 
any of us, a revelation by a voice, and that in a language 

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56 0SACLE8OFXSA8O1C. 

which we understand, and admitting that the proposi- 
tions, doctrines, or subject matter of it, should not exceed 
our capacity, we could understand it the same as we do 
in conversation with one another ; but this would be an 
external and natural revelation, in which God is sup- 
posed to make use of language, grammar, logic and 
sound, alias of intermediate causes, in order to commu- 
nicate or reveal it, which would differ as much from an 
immediately inspired revelation, as this book may be 
supposed to do ; for the very definition of immediate 
inspiration precludes all natural or immediate causes. 
That God is eternally perfect in knowledge, and there- 
fore knows all things, not by succession or by parts, as 
we understand things by degrees, has been already 
evinced ; nevertheless all truth, which we arrive at the 
understanding of, accords with the divine omniscience, 
but we do not come at the comprehension of things by 
immediate infusion, or inspiration, but from reasoning ; 
for we cannot see or hear God think or reason any ihore 
than man, nor are our senses susceptible of a mere men- 
tal communion with him, nor is it in nature possible for 
the human mind to receive any instantaneous or imme- 
diate illuminations or ideas from the divine spirit (as 
before argued,) but we must illuminate and improve our 
minds by a close application to the study of nature, 
through the series whereof God has been pleased to 
reveal himself to man, so that we may tnily say, that 
the knowledge of nature is the revelation of God. In 
this there can be no delusion, it is natural, and could 
come from none other but God. 

Unless we could do this, we should compound them 

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ORACLES OF B^ASON. 57 

together at a venture, and form a revelation like Nebu- 
chadnezzar's idol, " partly iron and partly clay," alias 
partly divine and partly human. The Apostle Paul 
informs fiis, that sometimes he " spake, and not the 
liOrd," and at other times speaks doubtfully about the 
matter, saying, " and I think also that I have the spirit 
of God," and if he was at a loss about his inspiration, 
well may we be distrustful of it. From the foregoing 
speculations on the subject of supernatural inspiration, it . 
appears, that there are insuperable difficulties in a mere 
mental discpurse with the divine spirit ; it is what we 
are unacquainted with, and the law of our nature forbids 
it. Our method of conversation is vocal, or by writing, 
or by some sort of external symbols which are the medi-^ 
ate ground of it, and we are liable to errors and mistakes 
in this natural and external way of correspondence ; but 
when we have the vanity to rely on dreams and visions 
to inform ourselves of things, or attempt to commune 
with invisible finite beings, or with the holy spirit, our 
deceptions, blunders and confusions are increased to 
fanaticism itself; as the diverse supposed influence of the 
spirit, on the respective sectaries, even among Chris- 
tians, may witness, as it manifestly, in their empty con- 
ceit of it, conforms to every of their traditions. Which 
evinces, that the whole bustle of it is mere enthusiasm, 
for was it dictated by the spuit of truth and uniformity 
itself, it would influence all alike, however zealots per- 
suade themselves and one another that they have super- 
natural communion with the Holy Ghost, from whence 
they tell us they derive their notions of religion, and in 
their frenzy are proof against reason and argument, 



58 OKACLXS OF SEASON. 

wUch if we tender them, they tell us, that it is carnal 
and depraved reasoning, but that their teachings are 
immediately from God, and then proceed to vent upon 
us all the curses and punishments, which are written in 
the book of the law. 

There has in the different parts and ages of the world, 
been a multiplicity of immediate and wonderful discov- 
eries, said to have been made to godly men of old by the 
special illumination or supernatural inspiration of God, 
every ef which have, in doctrine, precept and instruction, 
been essentially different from each other, which are con- 
sequently as repugnant to truths as the diversity of the 
influence of the spirit on the multiplicity of sectaries 
has been represented to be. 

These £icts, together with the premises and inferences 
as already deduced, are too evident to be denied, and 
operate conclusively against immediate or supernatural 
revelation in general ; nor will such revelation hold good 
in theory any more than in practice. Was a revelation 
to be made known to us, it must be accommodated to our 
external senses, and also to our reason, so that we could 
come at the perception and understanding of it, the same 
as we do to that of things in general. We must per- 
ceive by our senses, before we can reflect with the mind. 
Our sensorium is that essential medium between the 
divine and human mind, through which God reveals to 
man the knowledge of nature, and is our only door oi 
correspondence with God or with man. 

A premised revelation, adapted to our external senses, 
would enable our mental powers to reflect upon, examine 
into^ and understand it Always provided nevertheless. 

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0BACLE8 0FBEAS0N. 69 

tliat the subject matter of such revelation, or that of the 
doctrines, precepts or injunctions therein contained, do 
not exceed our reason, but are adapted to it as well as to 
our external senses. 

To suppose that God, merely from his omnipotence, 
without the intervention of some adequate intermediate 
cause could make use of sound, or grammatical and logi- 
cal language, or of writing, so as to correspond with us, 
or to reveal any thing to us, would run into the same sort 
of absurdity, which we have already confuted ; for it is 
the same as to suppose an eflFect without a suitable or 
a proportionable cause, or an effect without a cause ; 
whereas, effects must have adequate causes or they could 
not be produced. God is the self-existent and eternal 
cause of all things, but the eternal cause can no other- 
wise operate pn the eternal succession of causes and 
effects, but by the mutual operation of those causes on 
each other, according to the fixed laws of nature. For 
as we have frequently observed before that of all possible 
systems, infinite wisdom comprehended the best ; and 
infinite goodness and power must have adopted and per- 
fected it ; and being once established into an ordinance , 
of nature, it could not be deviated from by God : for 
that it would necessarily imply a manifest imperfection 
in God, either in its eternal establishment, or in its pre- 
mised subsequent alteration, which will be more partic- 
rilarly considered in the next chapter. 

To suppose that Almighty power could produce a 
voice, language, grammar, or logic, so as to communicate 
a revelation to us, without some sort of organic or instruj 
mentated machine or intermediate vehicle, or adequate 

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60 OSACLESOFBEASON. 

constituted external cause, would imply a contradiction 
to the order of nature and consequently to the perfection 
of God, who established it ; therefore, provided God has 
ever given us any particular revelation, we must suppose, 
that he has made use of a regular and natural constituted 
and mediate cause, comprehended in the external order 
of nature, rightly fitted and abilitated to make use of 
the vocal power of language, which comprises that of 
characters, orthography, grammar and logic, all which 
must have been made use of, in commimicating a sup- 
posed revelation to mankind, which forecloses inspira- 
tion. 

Furthermore, this heavenly dictating voice should have 
been accommodated to all languages, grammars and logi- 
cal ways of speaking, in which a revelation may have 
been divulged, as it would be needful to have been con- 
tinued from the beginning to every receiver, compiler, 
translator, printer, commentator on and teacher of such 
revelation, in order to have informed mankind in every 
instance, wherein at any time they may have been im- 
posed upon by any spurious adulterations or interpola- 
tions, and how it was in the original. These, with the 
refinements of languages and translations, are a summary 
of the many ways, wherein we may have been deceived 
by giving credit to antiquated written revelation, which 
would need a series of miracles to promulgate and per- 
petuate it in the world free from mistakes and frauds of 
one kind or other, and which leads me to the considera- 
tion of the doctrine of miracles. 



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ORACLESOFBEASON. 61 



CHAPTER VI. 
SECTION I. 
OP MIRACLES. 

Previous to the arguments concerning miracles, it is 
requisite that we give a definition of them, that the 
arguments may be clearly opposed to the doctrine of 
miracles, the reality of which we mean to negative ; so 
that we do not dispute about matters in which we are all 
agreed, but that we may direct our speculations to the 
subject matter or essence of the controversy. 

We will therefore premise, that miracles are opposed 
to, and counteract the laws of nature, or that they imply 
an absolute alteration in either a greater ot less degree, 
the eternal order, disposition and tendency of it ; this, 
we conclude, is a just definition of miraculousness, and 
is that for which the advocates for miracles contend, in 
their defining of miracles. For if they were supposed 
to make no alteration in the natural order of things, 
they could have no positive existence, but the laws of 
nature would produce their effects, which would preclude 
their reality, and render them altogether fictitious, inas- 
much as their very existence is premised to consist in 
their opposition to, and alteration of the laws of nature : 
so that if this is not effected, miracles can have no posi- 
tive existence, any more than nonentity itself; therefore, 
if in the course of the succeeding arguments, we should 
evince that the laws of nature have not and cannot be 
perverted, altered or suspended, it will foreclose miracles 
by making all things natural. Having^^yCg^^o^efined 



* 62 .0|tACLESOPBEASO]f. 

miracles, tod stated the dispute, we proceed to the 
arguments* 

Should there ever have been a miraculous suspension 
and alteration of the laws of nature, God must have 
been the immediate author of it, as no finite beings may 
be supposed to be able to alter those laws or regulations, 
which were established by omnipotent power and infinite 
perfection, and which nothing short of such power and 
perfection can perpetuate. This then is the single point 
at issue, viz : whether God has, or can, consistent with 
his nature as God, in any instance whatever, alter or 
deviate from the laws, with which he has eternally 
impressed the universe, or not. 

I - To suppose that God should subvert his laws, (which 
is the same as changing them) would be to suppose him 
to be mutable ; for that it would necessarily imply, 
either that their eternal establishment was imperfect, or 

^."that a premised alteration thereof is so. To alter or 
change that which is absolutely perfect, would necessa- 
rily make it cease to be perfect, inasmuch as perfection 
could not be altered for the better, but for the worse, 
and consequently an alteration could not meet with the 
divine approbation ; which terminates the issue of the 
matter in question against miracles, and authorizes us to 
deduce the following conclusive inference, to wit : tKat 
Almighty God, having eternally impressed the universe 
with a certain system of laws, for the same eternal rea- 
son that they were infinitely perfect and best, they could 
never admit of the least alteration, but are as unchangable, 
in their nature, as God their immutable author. To 
form the foregoing argument into syllogisms, it would 
be thus : — Digitized by Google 



OBACLE8 0FBBASOX. 63 

God is perfect — the laws of nature were established 
by God ; therefore, the laws of nature are perfect. 

But admitting miracles, the syllogism should be 
thus : — 

The laws of nature were in their eternal establishment 
perfect ; — the laws of nature have been altered ; there- 
fore , the alteration of the laws of nature is imperfect. 

Or thus : the laws of nature have^en altered ; — the 
alteration has been for the better ; therefore, the eternal 
establishment thereof was imperfect. 

•Thus it appears, from a syllogistical as well as other 
methods of reasoning^ that provided we admit of mira- 
cles, which are synonymous to the alterations of nature, 
we by so doing derogate from the perfection of God, 
either in his eternal constitution of nature, or in a sup- 
posed subsequent miraculous alteration of it, so that 
take the argument either way, and it preponderates 
against miracles. 

Furthermore, was it possible, that the eternal order 
of nature should have been imperfect, there would be an 
end to all perfection. For God might be as imperfect 
in any supposed miraculous works, as in those of nature ; 
nor could we ever have any security under his natural or 
moral government, if they were liable to change ; &r 
mutability is but another term for imperfection, or is 
inseparably connected with it. 

God, the great architect of nature, has so constructed 
its machinery, that it never needs to be altered or recti- 
fied. In vain we endeavor to search out the hidden 
mystery of a perpetual motion, in order to copy nature. 

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64 OBAGLESOFBEJLSON. 

for after all our researches we must be contented with 
such mechanism as will run down, and need rectification 
again ; but the machine of the universe admits of no 
rectification, but continues its never ceasing operations, 
imder the unerring guidance of the providence of God. 
Human architects make and unmake things, and alter 
them as their invention may dictate, and experience may 
determine to be most convenient and best. But that 
mind, which is infinitely perfect, gains nothing by 
experience, but surveys the immense universality of 
things, with all their possible relations, fitnesses and 
unfitnesses, of both a natural or moral kind, with one 
comprehensive view. 



SECTION 11. 

A SUCCESSION OF KNOWLEDGE, OR OF THE EXERTION OP 
POWER IN GOD, INCOMPATIBLE WITH HIS OMNISCIENCE OB 
OMNIPOTENCE, AND THE ETERNAL AND INFINITE DISPLAY 
OF DIVINE POWER FORECLOSES ANY SUBSEQUENT EXER- 
TION OF IT MIRACULOUSLY. 

That creation is as eternal and infinite as God, has been 
argued in chapter second ; and that there could be no 
succession in creation, or the exertion of the power of 
God, in perfecting the boundless work, and in impressing 
the universe with harmonious laws, perfectly well adapted 
to their design, use and end. 

First. These arguments may be further illustrated, 
and the evidence of the being of a God more fully ex- 
hibited, from the following considerations, to wit : de- 
pendent beings and existences must be dependent on 



OBACLEBOFBEASOIf. 65 

some being or cause that is independent^ for dependent 
beings, or existences, could not exist independently ; and, 
in as mucli as by retrospectively tracing the order of the 
succession of causes, we cannot include in our numera- 
tion the independent cause, as the several successive 
causes still depend on their preceding cause, and thdt 
preceding cause on the cause preceding it, and so on be- 
yond numerical calculations, we are therefore obliged (as 
rational beings) to admit an independent cause of all 
things, for that a mere succession of dependent causes 
cannot constitute an independent cause ; and from hence 
we are obliged to admit a self-existent and sufficient 
cause of all things, for otherwise it would be dependent 
and insufficient to have given existence to itself, or to 
have been the efficient cause of all things. 

Having thus established the doctrine of a self-sufficient, 
self-existent, and consequently all-powerful cause of all 
things, we ascribe an eternal existence to this cause of all 
causes and effects, whom we call God. And, inasmuch, 
as from the works of nature it is manifest, that God is 
possessed of almighty power, we from hence infer his 
eternal existence. Since his premised existence at (and 
not before) any given era, would be a conclusive objec- 
tion to the omnipotency of his power, that he had not 
existed before, or eternally. For as God is a being self- 
sufficient, self-existent, and almighty, (as before argued) 
his power must apply to his own existence as well as to 
the existence of things in general, and therefore, if he 
did not eternally exist, it must be because he had not the 
almighty power of existence in himself, and if so, he 
never could have existed at all ; so that God must have 
eternally existed or not have existed at all; and inasmuch 



66 ORA«L£SOTBEASON. 

as the works of nature evince his positive existence, 
and as he could not be dependent on the power, will, or 
pleasure of any other being but himself for his existence, 
and as an existence in time would be a contradiction to 
his almighty power of self-existency, that he had not 
eternally existed ; therefore, his existence must have 
been (in truth) eternal. 

Although it is to us incomprehensible that any being 
could be self-existent or eternal (which is synonymous,) 
yet we can comprehend, that any being that is not self- 
existent and eternal and dependent and finite, and conse- 
quently not a God. Hence we infer, that though we 
cannot comprehend the true God (by reason of our own 
finiteness,) yet [we can negatively comprehend that an. 
imperfect being cannot be God. A dependent being is 
finite, and therefore imperfect, and consequently not a 
God. A being that has existed at a cettain era (and not 
before) is a Umited one, for beyond his era he was not, 
and therefore finite, and consequently not a God. There- 
fore, that being only who is self-existent, infinitely perfect 
and eternal, is the true God : and if eternally and infi- 
nitely perfect, there must have been an eternal and infi- 
nite display, and if an eternal and infinite display, it 
could be nothing short of an eternal and infinite creation 
and providence. 

As to the existence of a God, previous to Moses's era 
of the first day's work, he does not inform us. The first 
notice he gives us of a God was of his laborious working 
by the day, a theory of creation (as I should think) bet- 
ter calculated for the servile Israelitish Brick-maJcers^ 
than for men of learning and science ii^^^€[pmodem 
'mes. 



ORACLES OF REASON. 67 



SECTION m. 

BARE AND WONDERFUL PHENOMENA NO EVIDENCE OF MIR- 
ACLES, NOR ARE DIABOLICAL SPIRITS ABLE TO EFFECT 
THEM, OR SUPERSTITIOUS TRADITIONS TO CONFIRM THEM, 
NOR CAN ANCIENT MIRACLES PROMTS RECENT REVELATIONS. 

Comets, earthquakes, volcanoes, and northern lights 
(In the night,) with many other extraordinary phenom- 
ena or appearances intimidate weak minds, and are by ^ 
them thought to be miraculous, although they undoubt- 
edly have their proper natural causes, which have been in 
a great measure discovered. Jack-with-a-lantem is a 
frightful appearance to some people, but not so much as 
the imaginary spectre. But of all the scarecrows which 
have made human nature tremble, the devil has been 
chief; his family is said to be very numerous, consisting 
of " legions," with which he has kept our world in a 
terrible uproar. To tell of all the feats and diabolical 
tricks, which this infernal family is said to have played 
upon our race, would compose a volume of an enormous 
size. All the magicians, necromancers, wizards, witches, 
conjurors, gypsies, sybils, hobgoblins, apparitions and the 
like, are supposed to be under their diabolical government : 
old Belzebub rules them all. Men will face destructive 
cannon and mortars, engage each other in the clashing of 
arms, and meet the horrors of war undaunted, but the 
devil and his banditti of fiends and emissaries fright them 
out of their wits, and have a powerful influence in plung- 
ing them into superstition, and also in continuing them 

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68 OBJLCLESOFBBASON. 

This supposed intercourse between mankind and those 
infernal beings, is by some thought to be miraculous or 
supernatural ; while others laugh at all the stories of 
their existence, concluding them to be mere juggle and 
deception, craftily imposed on the credulous, who are 
always gaping after something marvellous, miraculous, or 
supernatural, or after that which they do not understand : 
and are awkward and unskilful in their examination into 
nature, or into the truth or reality of things, which is 
occasioned partly by natural imbecility, and partly by 
indolence and inattention to nature and reason. 

That any magical intercourse or correspondence of mere 
spirits with mankind, is contradictory to nature, and con- 
sequently impossible, has been argued in chapter sixth. 
And that nothing short of the omnipotent power of God, 
countermanding his eternal order of nature, and impres- 
sing it with new and contrary law, can constitute a mir- 
acle has been argued in this, and is an effect surpassing 
the power of mere creatures, the diabolical nature not 
excepted. From hence we infer, that devils cannot work 
miracles. Inattention to reason, and ignorance of the 
nature of things makes many of mankind give credit to 
miracles. It seems that by this marvellous way of ac- 
counting for things, they think to come off with reputa- 
tion in their ignorance ; for if nature was nothing but a 
supernatural whirhgig, or an inconstant and irregular 
piece of mechanism, it would reduce all learning and 
science to a level with the fanaticism and superstition of 
the weak and credulous, and put the wise and unwise on 
a level in point of knowledge, as there would not, on 
this thesis, be any regular standard in nature, whereby to 

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OBACLESOFBEASOK. 69 

ascertain the truth and reality of things. What is called 
sleight-of-hand, is by some people thought to be miracu- 
lous. Astrological calculations of nativities, lucky and 
unlucky days and seasons, are by some regarded, and 
even moles on the surface of the skin are thought to be 
portentive of good or bad fortune. 

'* The Swedish Laplanders, the most ignorant mortals 
in Europe,'* are ** charged with being conjurors, and are 
said to have done such feats, by the magic art, as do not 
at all fall far short of miracles ; that they will give the 
sailors such winds as they want in any part of their voy- 
age ; that they can inflict and cure diseases ai any distance ; 
and insure people of success in their undertakings ; and 
yet they are just such poor miserable wretches as used to 
be charged with witchcraft here," viz : in England and 
in New Englanlfr, "and cannot command so much 
as the necessaries of life : and indeed, none but very 
credulous and ignorant people give credit to such febles 
at this day, though the whole world seems to have been 
bewitched in beUeving them formerly." " The 24th of 
March, 1735, an act passed in the Parliament of Great 
Britain to repeal the statute of I Jac's^ entitled an act 
against conjuration, witchcraft, and deaHng with evil and 
wicked spirits, and to repeal an act in Scotland entitled 
Amentis Witchcraft." It is but forty-six years since the 
supreme legislature became apprized of the' natural im- 
possibility of any magical intercourse between mankind 
and evil and wicked spirits ; in consequence whereof 
they repealed their statute laws against it, as they were 
naturally void, unnecessary, and unworthy of their leg- 
islative restrictiozL For that such a crime had no possi- 

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70 OBACLSSOFBEASON. 

ble existence in nature, and therefore could not be acted 
by mankind ; though previous to the repeal of those 
laws, more or less pf that island had fallen a sacrifice to 
them ; and the relations of those imaginary criminals 
were stamped with infamy by such executions, which had 
the sanction of law, alias of the legislature and the 
judges, and in which many learned attomies have dem- 
onstrated the turpitude of such capital offences, and the 
just sanction of those laws in extirpating such pests of 
society from the earth ; to which the clergy have like- 
wise given their approbation, for that those capital trans- 
gressors made too free with their devils. 

Furthermore, the repeal of those laws, as far as the 
wisdom and authority of the British Parliament may be 
supposed to go, abrogated that command of the law of 
Moses, which saith, ** Thou shalt no|p suffer a witch to 
live," and not only so, but the doctrine of the impossi- 
bility of intercourse, or of dealing with wicked spirits, 
forecloses the supposed miraculous casting out of devils, 
of which we have sundry chronicles in the New Tes- 
tament. 

But to return to the annals of my own country, it will 
present us with a scene of superstition in the magical 
way, which will probably equal any that is to be met- 
with in history, to wit : the Salem witchcraft in New 
England ; great numbers of the inhabitants of both sexes 
were judicially convicted of being wizards and witches, 
and executed accordingly ; some of whom were so infat- 
uated with the delusion, that at their execution they 
confessed themselves guilty of the sorcery for which they 
were indicted ; nor did the fenaticism meet with a check • 

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OBACLE OFBEASOIf. 71 

until some of the first families were accused with it, who 
made such an opposition to the prosecutions, as finally to 
put an end to any further execution of the Salemites. 

Those capital ofienders suffered in consequence of cer- 
tain laws, which, by way of derision, have since been 
called the Blue Laws, in consequence of the multiplicity 
of superstition, with which they abounded, most of which 
are repealed ; but those that respect sorcery have had 
favorite legislators enough to keep them alive and in 
force to this day. 

I recollect an account of prodigies said to have been 
carried on by the Romish Clergy in France, upon which 
his most Christian Majesty sent one of his officers to them 
with the following prohibition, to wit : '^ by the command 
of the king, God is forbid to work any more miracles in 
this place ; " upon which the marvellous work ceased. 

There has been so much detection of the artifice, jug- 
gle and imposture of the pretenders to miracles, in the 
world, especially in such parts where learning and science 
have prevailed, that it should prompt us to be very sus- 
picious of the reality of them, even without entering 
into any lengthy arguments firom the r^sonand nature of 
things to evince the utter impossibility of their existence 
in the creation and providence of God. 

We are told, that the first occasion and introduction of 
miracles into the world, was to prove the divine authority 
of revelation, and the mission of its first teachers ; be it 
so. Upon this plan of evincing the divinity of revelation, 
it would be necessary that its teachers should always be 
vested with the power of working miracles ; so that when 
their authority or the in&llibility of the revelation which 

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72 ORAOLESOFBEJLSON. 

they should teach^ should at any time be questioned^ they 
might work a miracle ; or that in such a case God would 
do it ; which would end the dispute, provided mankind 
were supposed to be judges of miracles, which may be 
controverted. However, admitting that they are possible, 
and mankind in the several generations of the world to 
be adequate judges of them, and also, that they were 
necessary to support the divine mission of the first pro- 
mulgators of revelation, and the divinity which they 
taught ; from the same parity of reasoning, miracles 
ought to be continued to the succeeding generations of 
mankind, co-extensive with its divine authority, or that 
of its teachers. For why should we in this age of the 
world be under obligation to believe the infallibility of 
revelation, or the heavenly mission of its teachers, upon 
less evidence than those of mankind who lived in the 
generations before us ? For that which may be supposed 
to be a rational evidence, and worthy to gain the belief 
and assent of mankind at one period of time, must be so 
at another ; so that it appears, from the sequel of the 
arguments on this subject, that provided miracles were 
requisite to establish the divine authority of revelation 
originally, it is equally requisite that they be continued 
to the latest posterity, to whom the divine legislator may 
be supposed to continue such revelation as his law to 
mankind. 

Nothing is more evident to the understanding part of 
mankind, than that in those parts of the world where 
learning and science has prevailed, miracles have ceased ; 
but in such parts of it as are barbarous and ignorant, 
miracles are still in vogue ; which is of Itself a strong 

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OBACLESOFBKASON. 73 

presumption tkat in the infancy of letters, learning and/i 
science, or in the world's non-age, those who confided in ; 
miracles, as a proof of the divine mission of the first 
promulgators of revelation, were imposed upon by ficti- 
tious appearances instead of miracles. 

Furthermore, the author of Christianity warns us 
against the impositions of false teachers, and ascribes the 
signs of the true believers, saying, "And these signs shall 
foUow them that believe, in my name shall they cast out 
devils, they shall speak with new tongues, they shall take 
up serpents, and if they diink any deadly thing it shall 
not hurt them, they shall lay hands on the sick and they 
shall recover." These are the express words of the 
founder of Christianity, and are contained in the very 
commission, which he gave to his eleven Apostles, who 
were to promulgate his gospel in the world ; so that from 
their very institution it appears that when the miraculous 
signs, therein spoken of, foiled, they were considered as 
unbelievers, and consequently no feith or trust to be 
any longer reposed in them or their successors. For 
these signs were those which were to perpetuate their 
mission, and were to be continued as the only evidences 
of the validity and authenticity of it, and as long as 
these signs followed, mankind could not be deceived in 
adhering to the doctrines which the Apostles and their 
successors taught ; but when these signs failed, their di- 
vine authority ended. Now if any of them will drink a 
dose of deadly poison, which I could prepare, and it does 
not ^ huit them," I will subscribe to their divine author- 
ity, and end the dispute; not that I have a disposition- to 
poison any one, nor do I suppose that they w^ld dare to 

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74 0BACI*£SOFB£A&aN. 

take such a dose as I could prepare for them, whicb^ if 
so, would evince that they were unbelievers themselves, 
though they are extremely apt to censure others for un- 
belief, which according to their scheme is a damnable sin. 



SECTION IV. 

FKAYER CANKOT BE ATTENDED WITH MIRACULOUS 
CONS.EQUENCE&. 

Prayer to God is no part of a rational religion, nor 
did reason ever dictate it, but, was it duly attended to, 
it would teach us the contrary. 

To make known our wants to God by prayei*, or to 
communicate any intelligence concerning ourselves or 
the universe to him, is impossible, since his oinnischent 
mind has a perfect knowledge of all things, and there- 
fore is beholden to none of our correspondence to inform 
himself of our circumstances, or of what would be 
wisest and best to do for us in all possible condition* 
and modes of existence, in our never ending duration of 
being. These, with the infinitude of things, have been 
eternally deliberated by the omniscient mind, who can 
admit of no additional intelligence, whether by prayer 
or otherAvise, which renders it nugatory. 

We ought to act up to the dignity of our nature, and 
demean b-ui'selves, as creatures of our rank and capacity, 
and not presume to dictate any thing, less or more, to 
the governor of the universe ; who rules not by our 
proscriptions, but by eternal and infinite reason. To 
; pray to God, or to make supplication to Mm, requesting 

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OBACLES OF SEASON. 75 

certain favors for ourselves, or from any, or all the 
species, is inconsistent with the relation which subsists 
between God and man. Whoever has a just sense of 
the absolute perfection of God, and of their own imper- 
fection, and natural subjection to hi« providence, cannot 
but from thence infer 'the in^propriety of praying or sup- 
plicating to God, for this, that, or the other thing ; or of 
remonstratmg against his providence : inasmuch, as 
^* Jcnown to God are all our wants ; " and as we know, 
that we ourselves are inadequate judges of what would 
be best for us, all things considered. God looks through 
the immensity of things, and understands the harmony, 
moral beauty and decorum of the whole, and will by no 
means change his purposes, or alter the nature of the 
things themselves for any of our entreaties or threats. 
To pray, entreat, or make supplication to God, is neither 
more nor less than dictating to eternal reason, a^d enter- 
ing into the province and prerogative of the Almighty ; 
if this is not the meaning and import of prayer, it has 
none at all, that extends to the final events and conse- 
quences of things. To pray to God with a sense, that 
the prayer we are making will not be granted any more 
for our making it, or that our prayer will make no alter- 
ation in the state, order or disposal of things at all, or 
that the requests, which we make, will be no more likely 
to be granted, or the things themselves conferred upon 
us by God, than as though we had not prayed for them, 
would be stupidity or outright mockery, or " to be seen 
of men," in order to procure from them some temporaiy 
advantages. But on the other hand for us to suppose, 
that our prayers or praises do in any one instance or 

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76 ORACLES OF REASON. 

more alter the eternal constitution of things, or of the 
providence of God, is the same as to suppose ourselves 
so far forth to hold a share in the divine government, for 
our prayers must be supposed to effect somethiag or 
nothing, if they effect nothing they are good for nothing ; 
but that they should effect any alteration in the nature 
of things, or providence of God, is inadmissible : for if 
they did, we should interfere with the providence of 
God in a certain degree, by arrogating it to ourselves. 
For if there are any particulars in providence, which 
God does not govern by his order of nature, they do not 
belong to the providence of God, but of man ; for if in 
any instance, God is moved by the prayers, entreaties, or 
supplications of his creatures, to alter his providence, or 
to do that in conformity thereto, which otherwise, in the 
course of his providence, he would not have done ; then 
it would necessarily follow, that as far as such alteration 
may be supposed to take place, God does not govern by 
eternal and infinite reason, but on the contrary is gov- 
erned himself by the prayer of man. 

Our great proficients in prayer must need think them- 
selves to be of great importance in the scale of being, 
otherwise they would not indulge themselves in the no- 
tion, that the God of nature would subvert his laws, or 
bend his providence in conformity to their prayers. But 
it may be objected, that they pray conditionally, to wit : 
\ that God would answer their prayers, provided they are 
agreeable to his providential order or disposal of things ; 
but to consider prayer in such a sense renders it, not 
only useless, but impertinent ; for the laws of nature 
would produce their natural effects as well without it, as 

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OKACLES OP REASON. 77 

with it. The sum total of such conditional prayer 
could amount to no more than this, viz : that God would 
not regard them at all, but that he would conduct the 
kingdom of his providence agreeable to the absolute 
perfections of his nature ; and who in the exercise of 
common sense would imagine that God would do other- 
wise ? 

The nature of the immense imiversality of things 
having been eternally adjusted, cJ)nstituted and settled, 
by the profound thought, perfect wisdom, impartial 
justice, immense goodness, and omnipotent power of 
God, it is the greatest arrogance in us to attempt an 
alteration thereof. If we demean ourselves worthy of a 
rational happiness, the laws of the moral system, already 
established, will aflford it to us ; and as to physical evils, 
prudent economy may make them tolerable, or ward 
most of them off for a season, though they will unavoid- 
ably bring about the separation of a soul and body, and 
terminate with animal life, whether we pray for or 
against it. 

To pray for any thing, which we can obtain by the 1 
due application of our natural powers, and neglect the 
means of procuring it, is impertinence and laziness in 
the abstract ; and to pray for that which God in the 
course of his providence, has put out of our power to 
obtain, is only murmuring against God, and finding fault 
with his providence, or acting the inconsiderate part of a 
child ; for example , to pray for more wisdom, imder- 
standing, grace or faith ; for a more robust constitu- 
tion — handsomer figure, or more of a gigantic size, 
would be the same as telling God, that we are dissatisfied 



78 ORACLES OP BEJLSON. 

with our inferiority in the order of being ; that neither 
our souls nor bodies suit us ; that he has been too sparing 
of his beneficence ; that we want more wisdom, and or- 
gans better fitted for show, agility and superiority. But 
we ought to consider, that *' we cannot add one cubit to 
our stature, ^^ or alter the construction of our organic 
frame ; and that our mental talents are finite ; and that 
in a vast variety of proportions and disproportions, as 
our Heavenly Father in his order of nature, and scale of 
being saw fit ; who has nevertheless for the encourage- 
ment of intelligent nature ordained, that it shall be capa- 
ble of improvement, and consequently of enlargement ; 
therefore, ** whosoever lacTceth wisdom,^' instead of " asJc- 
ing it of God/^ let him improve what he has, that he 
may enlarge the original stock ; this is all the possible 
way of gaining in wisdom and knowledge, a competency 
of which will regulate our faith. But it is too common 
for great faith and little knowledge to unite in the same 
person ; suet persons are beyond the reach of argument 
and their faith immovable, though it cannot remove 
mountains. The only way to procure food, raiment, or 
the necessaries or conveniences of life, is by natural 
means ; we do not get them by wishing or praying for, 
but by actual exertion ; and the only way to obtain vir- 
tue or morahty is to practice and habituate ourselves to 
it, and not to pray to God for it : he has naturally fur- 
nished us with talents or faculties suitable for the exer- 
cise and enjoyment of religion, and it is our business to 
improve them aright, or we must suflfer the consequences 
of it. We should conform ourselves to reason, the path 
of moral rectitude, and in so doing, we cannot feil of 



OBJLCLESOFBBASOV. 79 

recommending ourselves to God, and to our own con- 
sciences. This is all the religion which reason knowi 
or can ever appixjve of. 

Moses, the celebrated prophet and legislator of the 
Israelites, ingratiated himself into their esteem, by the 
stratagem of prayer, and pretended intimacy with God ; 
he acquaints us, that he was once admitted to a sight of 
his BACK-PARTS ! and that '* no man can tee '* his *^ face 
and live ; " and at other times we are told that he 
*^ talked with God, face to face, at a man taOceth with 
hit friend ; " and also that at times God waxed wroth 
with Israel, and how Moses prayed for them ; and at 
other times, that he ordered Aaron to offer sweet incense 
to God, which appeated hit wrath, and prevented his 
destroying Israel in his Ao^ ditpleature ! These are the 
footsteps, by which we may trace sacerdotal dominion to 
its source, and explore its progress in the world. ^^And 
the Lord taid unto Motet, how long will thit people pro- 
voice mel I vnll tmite them toith the pettilence, and 
disinherit them, and I will make of thee a great nation, 
and mightier than they,'^ but Moses advertises God of 
the injury, which so rash a procedure would do to his 
character among the nations ; and also reminds him of 
his promise to Israel, saying, *^Now if thou thaU kill all 
thit people at one man, then the nations, which have 
heard the fame of thee will tpeak, taying, becaute the 
Lord wat not able to bring this people into the land, 
vjhich he swear unto them, therefore he hath slain them 
in the wilderness, ^^ That Moses should thus advise the 
omniscient God, of dishonorable consequences which 
would attend a breach of promise, which he tells us, 

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80 ORACLES OF KSASOir. 

that God was unadvisedly about to make with the tribes 
of Israel^ had not his remonstrance prevented it, is very 
extraordinary and repugnant to reason ; yet to an eye of 
feith it would exak the man Moses, ** and make him 
very great ; " for if we may credit his history of the 
matter, henot only averted God's judgment against Israel^ 
and prevented them from being cut off as a nation, but 
by the same prayer procured for them a pardon of their 
sin. " Pardon, I beseech thee, the iniqnity of this peo- 
ple" and in the next verse follows the answer, « and 
the Lord said 1 have pardoned according to thy word." 
It seems that God had the power, but Moses had the 
dictatioii of it, and saved Israel from the wrath and 
];>estilential fury of a jealoiis God ; and that he procured 
them a pardon of their sin, ^^for the Lord thy God is 
a Jealous Ood" Jealousy can have no existence in that 
mind, which possesses perfect knowledge, and conse- 
quently cannot, without the greatest impropriety, be 
ascribed to God, who knows all things, and needed none 
of the admonitions, advice or intelligence of Moses, or 
any of his dictatorial prayers. ^^And the Lord heark- 
ened unto me at that time also ; ^' intimating that it was 
a common thing for him to do the like. When teachers 
can once make the people believe that God answers their 
prayers, and that their eternal interest is dep^ident on 
them, they soon raise themselves to opulency, rule and 
h%h sounding titles ; as that of His Holiness — the 
Reverend Father in God — The Holy FoJcer — Bishop 
of SouJs — and a variety of other such like appellations, 
derogatory to the honor or just prerogative of God ; as 
is Joshua's history concerning the Lord's hearkening 

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ORACL£S OF SEASON. 81 

unto him at the battle of the Amorites, wherein he 
informs us, that he ordered the sun to stand still, saying, 
^'Sun stand thou still upon Gibcen, and thou Moon in 
the valley of Ajalon, so the Sun stood still and the Moon 
stayed until the people had avenged themselves upon their 
enemies ; " so the Sun stood still in the midst of Heaven, 
and hasted not to go down about a whole day ; " and. 
then adds, by way of supremacy to himself above all 
others, and in direct contradiction to the before recited 
passages of Moses concerning the Lord's hearkening 
unto him, or to any other man but himself, saying, ^^And 
there was no day like that before it, or after it, that the 
Lord hearkened unto the voice of a m>anJ*^ There is not 
any thing more evident than that if the representation 
given by Joshua, as matter of fact, is true, those exhib- 
ited by Moses concerning the Lord's hearkening unto 
him are not : though the representations of fact by Moses 
and by Joshua, are allowed to be both canonical, yet it is 
impossible that both can be true. However, astronomy 
being but little understood in the age in which Joshua 
lived, and the earth being in his days thought to be at 
rest, and the sun to revolve round it, makes it in no way 
strange, that he caught himself by ordering the sun to 
stand still, which having since been discovered to have 
been the original fixed position of that luminous body, 
eclipses the miraculous interposition of Joshua. Fur- 
thermore, if we but reflect that on that very day Israel 
vanquished the Amorites with a great slaughter, '* and 
chased them along the way that goeth to Bethoron, and 
smote them to AzeTcah, and unto MaTcTcedahy^ in so gre^t 
a hurry of war, clashing of arms, exasperation and eley^- 
4* 



82 ORACL£SOFKEJLSON. 

tion of mind, in consequence of such triumphant victory, 
they could make but a partial observation on the length 
of the day ; and being greatly elated with such an extra- 
ordinary day's work, Joshua took the advantage of it, 
and told them that it was an uncommon day for dura- 
tion ; that he had interposed in the system and prescribed 
to the sun to stand still about a whole day ; and that 
they had two days* time to accomplish those great feats. 
The belief of such a miraculous event to have taken 
place in the solar system, in consequence of the influence 
which Joshua insinuated that he had with God, would 
most effectually establish his authority among the people ; 
for if God would hearken to his voice well might man. 
This is the cause why the bulk of mankind in all ages 
and countries of the w;orkl, have been so much infatuated 
by their ghostly teachers, whom th^ have ever imagined 
to have had a special influence with God Almighty. 



CHAPTER VII. 

SECTION I. 

I 

THE VAGUENESS AND UNINTELLIGIBLENESS OF THE PRO- 
PHECIES, RENDER THEM INCAPABLE OF PltOMNG REVE- 
LATION. 

Prophecy is by some thought to be miraculous, and by 
others to be supernatural, and there are others, who* in- 
dulge themselves in an opinion, that they amount to no 
more than mere political conjectures. Some nations have 
feigned an intercourse with good spirits by the art of di- 
vination ; and others with evil ones by the art of magic ; 



OKACLESOFBEASON. 83 

and most nations have pretended to an intercourse with 
the world of spirits both ways. 

The Eomans trusted much to their sibylline oracles 
and soothsayers ; the Babylonians to their magicians and 
astrologers ; the Egyptians and Persians to their magi- 
cians ; and the Jews to their seers or prophets ; and all 
nations and individuals, discover an anxiety for an inter* 
course with the world of spirits ; which lays a foundation 
for artful and designing men, to impose upon them. But 
if the foregoing arguments in chapter sixth, respecting 
the natural impossibility of an intercourse of any unbod- 
ied or imperceptible mental beings with mankind, are 
true, then the foretelUng of future events can amount to 
nothing more than political illusion. For prophecy as 
well as all other sorts of prognostication must be super- 
naturally inspired, or it could be no more than judging 
of future events from mere prpbability or guess-work, as 
the astronomers ingenuously confess in their calculations, 
by saying : *^ Judgment of the weather," &c. So also 
respecting astrology, provided there is any such thing as 
futurity to be learned from it, it would be altogether a 
natural discovery ; for neither astronopjy nor astrology 
claim anything of a miraculous or supernatural kind, 
but their calculations are meant to be predicated on the 
order and course of nature, with which our senses are 
conversant, and with which inspiration or the mere co- 
operation of spirits is not intended to act as part. So 
also concerning prophecy, if it be considered to be merely 
natural, (we will not at present dispute whether it is true 
or false) upon this position it stands on the footing of 
probability or mere conjecture and uncertainty. But as 



84 OBACLESOFKEASON. 

to the doctrine of any supernatural agency of the divine 
mind on ours, which is commonly called inspiration, it 
has been sufficiently confuted in chapter sixth ; which 
arguments need not be repeated, nor does it concern my 
system to settle the question, whether prophecy should 
be denominated miraculous or supernatural, inasmuch as 
both these doctrines have been confuted ; though it is 
my opinion, that were we to trace the notion of super- 
natural to its source, it would finally terminate in that 
which is denominated miraculous; for that which is 
above or beyond nature, if it has any positive existence, 
must be miraculous. 

The writings of the prophets are most generally so 
loose, vague and indeterminate in their meaning, or in 
the grammar of their present translation, that the proph- 
ecies will as well answer to events in one period of time, 
as in another ; and are equally applicable to a vaiiety of 
events, which have and are still taking place in the world, 
and are liable to so many different interpretations, that 
they are incapable of being understood or explained, 
except upon arbitrary principles, and therefore cannot, be 
admitted as a groof of revelation ; as for instance, " it 
shall come to pass in the last days, saith God.^^ Who 
can understand the accomplishment of the prophecies, 
that are expressed- after this sort 1 for every day in its 
turn has been, and will in its succession be the last day ; 
and if we advert to the express words of the prophecy, 
to wit, " the last days,^^ there will be an uncertain plu- 
rality *' of last days,^' which must be understood to be 
short of a moijth, or a year ; or it should have been ex- 
pressed thus, and it shall come to pass in the last months 



OBACIiESOFBEASON. 85 

or years^ instead of days : and if it had mentioned last 
years, it would be a just construction to suppose, that it 
included a less number of years than a century ; but as 
the prophecy mentions *^ last days,^^ we are at a loss, 
which among the plurality of them to assign for the ful- 
filling of the prophecy. 

Furthermore, we cannot learn from the prophecy, in 
what month, year, or any other part of duration those 
last days belong ; so that we can never tell when such 
vague prophecies are to take place, they therefore remain 
the arbitrary prerogative of fanatics to prescribe their 
events in any age or period of time, when their distem- 
pered fancies may think most eligible : there are other 
prophecies still more abstruse i to wit, *^And one said 
unto the man clothed in linen, which was upon the waters 
of the river, how long ^hall it he to the end of these 
wonders 1 and I heard the man clothed in linen, which 
was upon the waters of the river, when he held up his 
right hand and his left hand unto Heaven, and sware by 
him that liveih forever, that it should be for an time, 
iirnes and an halfJ^ The question in the prophecy is 
asked *^ how long shall it be to the end of these won- 
ders 1 " and the answer is given with the solemnity of 
an oath, " it shall be for a time, timet and a halfJ*^ A 
time is an indefinite part of duration, and so ai'e times, 
and the third description of time is as indefinite as either 
of the former descriptions of it ; to wit, " and an half; '* 
that is to say, half a time. There is no certain term 
given in any or either of the three descriptions of the 
end of the wonders alluded to, whereby any or all of 
them together are capable of computation, as there is no 



86 0KA.CLE80F REASON. 

ceitain period marked out to begin or end a calculation. 
To compute an indefinite time in the single number or 
quantity of duration is impossible, and to compute an 
uncertain plurality of such indefinite times is equally 
perplexing and impracticable ; and lastly, to define half 
a time by any possible succession of its parts, is a contra- 
diction, for half a tims includes no time at all ; inas- 
much as the smallest conception or possible moment or 
criterion of duration, is a time, or otherwise, by the 
addition of ever so many of those parts together, they 
would not prolong a period ; so that there is not, and 
cannot be such a part of time, as half a time, for be it 
supposed to be ever so momentous, yet if includes any 
part of duration, it is a time, and not half a time. Had 
the prophet said half a year, half a day, or half a min- 
ute, he would have spoken intelligibly ; but half a time 
has no existence at all, and consequently no period could 
ever possibly arrive in the succession or order of time, 
when there could be an end to the wonders alluded to ; 
and in this sense only, the prophecy is intelligible ; to 
wit, that it will never come to pass. 

The revelation of St. John the divine, involves the 
subject of time, if possible, in still greater inconsistencies, 
viz : ''And to the woman was given two vnngs of a great 
eagle, that she might fly into the wilderness, into her 
place : Where she is nourished for a time, and times and 
half a time.^* ''And the angel which I saw stand upon 
the sea and upon the earth lifted up his hands to heaven, 
and sware by him that liveth forever and ever, who cre- 
ated heaven and the things that therein are, and the earth 
^nd the things that therein are, and the sea and the 



ORACLES OF REASON. 87 

things which are therein, that there should be time no 
longer.** Had this tremendous oath been verified there 
could have been no farther disputations on the calculation 
of " time and times and half a time,** (or about any 
thing else) for its succession would have reached its 
last and final period at that important crisis when time 
should have been " no longer." The solar system must 
have ceased its motions, from which we compute the 
succession of time, and the race of man would have 
been extinct ; for as long as they may be supposed to 
exist, time must of necessary consequence, have existed 
also ; and since the course of nature, including the gen- 
erations of mankind, has been continued from the time 
of the positive denunciation of the angel to this day, we 
may safely conclude, that his interference in the system 
of nature, was perfectly romantic. 

The apostle Peter, at the first Christian pentecost, 
objecting to the accusation of their being drunk with 
new wine, explains the prophecy of the prophet Joel, 
who prophesied of the events which were to take place 
in the last days, as coming to pass at that early period ; 
his words are handed down to us as follows : "J5u^ this 
is that which is spoken by the prophet Joel, and it shall 
com^e to pass in the last days, saith God, that I will pour 
out my spirit upon all flesh, and your sons and your 
daughters shall prophecy, and your young men shall see 
visions, and your old men shall dream dreams,** 

The history of the out-pouring of the spirit at the 
Pentecost, admitting it to have been a fact, would have 
been very inadequate to the prophetical prediction, mz : 
1 will pour out my spirit upon all flesh ; the most favor- 
able co»struction is that the prophet meant human flesh. 



88 OBACLES OF REASON. 

i. e., all human flesh ; but instead of a universal effusion 
of the spirit, it appears to have been restricted to a select 
number, who were collected together at Jerusalem, and 
the concourse of spectators thought them to be delirious. 
It may however be supposed, that St. Peter was a better 
judge of the accomplishment of the prophecy than I am : 
well then, admitting his application of the prophecy of 
the last days to take place at the first pentecost ; it being 
now more than seventeen hundred years agp, they con- 
sequently could not have been the last days. 

Still a query arises, whether every of the prophecies, 
which were predicted to be fulfilled in the last days, 
must not have been accomplished at that time ; or 
whether any of the prophecies thus expressed are still 
to be completed by any events which may in future take 
place ; or by any which have taken place since those last 
days called pentecost ; or whether any prophecy what- 
ever can be fulfilled more than once ; and if so, how- 
many times ; or how is it possible for us, out of the vast 
variety of events (in which there is so great a similarity) 
which one in particular to ascribe to its right prediction 
among the numerous prophecies ? 

Furthermore, provided some of the prophecies should 
point out some particular events, which have since taken 
place, there might have been previous grounds of proba- 
bility, that such or such events would in the ordinary 
course of things come to pass ; for instance, it is no ways 
extraordinary, that the prophet Jeremiah should be able 
to predict that Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, should 
take Jerusalem, when we consider the power of the 
Babylonish empire at that time, and the feebleness of 



OSACLES OF SEASON. 89 

the Jews. "TAe word, which came to Jeremiah from the 
Lord, when Nebuchadnezzar Icing of Babylon and all 
his army, and all the kingdoms of the earth of his domin- 
ion, and all the people fought against Jerusalem, and 
against all the cities thereof, saying, thus saith the Lord 
the God of Israel, gp and speaJc unto Zedekiah king of 
Judah, and tell him thus saith the Lord, behold, I will 
give this city of Jerusalem into the hand of the king of 
Sabyhn.'* No politicians could at the time of the pre- 
diction be much at a loss respecting the fate of Jerusa- 
lem. Nor would it be at all evidential to any candid 
and ingenious enquirer, that God had any manner of 
agency in fabricating the prophecies, though some of 
them should seem to decypher future events, as they 
might, to human appearance, turn out right, merely from 
accident or contingency. It is very improbable, or rather 
incompatible with human natui'e, that the prophecy of 
Micah will ever come to pass, who predicts that " they,^* 
speaking of mankind, ** shall beat their swords into 
plough-shares, and their spears into pruning-hooks ; na- 
tion shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall 
they learn war any m^re^ Some of the prophecies are 
so apparently contradictory, that they contain their own 
confutation ; as for instance, the prophecy of Micaiah 
contained in the book of Chronicles, which probably is 
as absurd as any thing that is to be met with in story : 
** And when he was come unto the king, the king said 
unto him, Micaiah, shall we go to Ramoth Gilead to 
battle, or shall I forbear ? and he said go ye up and 
prosper, and they shall be delivered into your hand, and 
the king said unto him, how many times shall I adjure 

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90 OBACIiESOFREASON. 

thee, that thou shalt tell me nothing, but that which is 
true in the name of the Lord ? then he said I did see 
all Israel scattered upon the mountains, as sheep that 
have no shepherd, and the Lord said, these have no 
master, let them return, therefore, every man to his 
house in peace: and the king sai^ unto Jehoshaphat, 
did not I tell thee, that he would prophecy no good con- 
cerning me, but evil ? " ** Again he said, therefore, hear 
the word of the Lord — I saw the Lord sitting upon his 
throne, and all the host of Heaven standing on his right 
hand and on his left, and the Lord said who shall entice 
Ahab, King of Israel, that he may go up and fall at 
Eamoth Gilead, and one spake saying after this manner, 
and another saying after that manner ; then there came 
out a spirit and stood before the Lord, and said I will 
entice him, and the Lord said unto him wherewith? 
And he said I will go forth and be a Ijring spirit in the 
mouth of all his prophets, and the Lord said thou shalt 
entice him and thou shalt prevail ; go out and do even 
so. Now therefore, behold the Lord hath put a lying 
spirit in the mouth of these thy prophets and the Lord 
hath spoken evil against thee." It is observable that 
the prophet at first predicted the prosperity of Ahab, 
saying, *' go ye up and prosper, and they shall be de- 
livered into your hand," but after a little adjurement by 
the king, he alters his prediction and prophecies dia- 
metrically the reverse. "What is pore certain than that 
the event of the expedition against Ramoth Gilead must 
have comported with the one or the other of his prophe- 
cies ? Certain it was, that Ahab would takq it or not 
take it, he must either prosper or not prosper, as there 

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ORACLES OF SEASON. 91 

■would be no third way or means between these two ; 
and it appears that the prophet was determined to be 
in the right of it by his prophecy both ways. It fur- 
ther appears from his prophecy, that there was a great 
consultation in Heaven to entice Ahab King of Israel to 
his destruction, and that a certain lying spirit came and 
stood before the Lord, and proposed to him to go out 
and be a lying spirit in the mouth of the king's prophets. 
But what is the most incredible is, that God should coun- 
tenance it, and give him positive orders to felsify the 
truth to the other prophets. It appears that Micaiah in 
his first prophecy, viz : *^ Go up to Eamoth Gilead and 
prosper, and they shall be delivered into your hand," 
acted in concert with the lying spirit which stood before 
the Lord, but afterwards acted the treacherous part by 
prophecying the truth, which, if we may credit his ac- 
count, was in direct opposition to the scheme .of Heaven. 



SECTION II. 

THE (INTENTIONS WHICH SUBSISTED BETWEEN THE PROPH- 
ETS RESPECTING THEIR VERACITY, AND THEIR INCON- 
SISTENCIES WITH ONE ANOTHER, AND WITH THE NATURE 
OF THINGS, AND THEIR OMISSION IN TEACHING THE 
DOCTRINE OF IMMORTALITY, PRECLUDES THE DIVINITY 
OF THEIR PROPHECIES. 

Whoever examines the writings of the prophets 
will discover a spirit of strife and contention among 
them ; they would charge each other with fallacy and 
deception ; disputations of this kind are plentifully in- 
terspersed through the writings of the prophets ; we 



92 ORACLESOFREASON. 

will transcribe a few of those passages out of many: 
"Thus saith the Lord to the foolish prophets that fol- 
low their own spirit, and have found nothing, they have 
seen vanity and lying divination, saying the Lord saith, 
and the Lord hath not sent them, and they have naade 
others to hope that they would confirm the word." And 
in another place, " I have not sent these prophets, yet 
they ran ; I have not spoken unto them, yet they prophe- 
cy." Again, " I have heard what the prophets said, 
that prophecy lies in my name, saying, I have dreamed, 
I have dreamed, yet they are the prophets of the deceit 
of their own hearts." And again, '^Yea, they a,re 
greedy dogs, which can never have enough, and they 
are shepherds that cannot understand ; they all look to 
their own way, every one for his gain from his quarter." 
It being the case that there was such a strife among 
the prophets to recommend themselves to the people, 
and every art and dissimulatiom having been practised by 
them to gain p©wer and superiority, all which artifice 
was to be judged of by the great vulgar, or in some in- 
stances by the political views of the Jewish Sanhedrim, 
how could those who were cotemporaries with the several 
prophets, distinguish the premised true prophets from 
the false ? Much less, how can we, who live more than 
seventeen hundred years since the last of them, be able 
to distinguish them apart ? And yet, without the knowl- 
edge of this distinction, we cannot with propriety give 
credit to any of them, even admitting there were some 
true prophets among them. Nor is it possible for us to 
know but that their very institution was merely a reach 
of policy of the Israelitish and Judaic gov^ernments, the 

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ORACLES OF REASON. 93 

more easily, implicitly and effectually to keep their peo- 
ple in subordination, by inculcating a belief that they 
were ruled with special diiections from heaven, which in 
£ict originated from the Sanhedrim. Many other na- 
tions have made use of much the same kind of policy. 

In the 22d chapter of Genesis, we have a history of a 
very extraordinary command from God to Abraham, and 
of a very unnatural attempt of his to obey it. ^^ And 
it came to pass after these things that God did tempt 
Abraham, and he said unto him, Abraham, and he said 
behold here I am, and he said take now thy son Isaac, 
whom thou Invest, and get thee to the land of Moriah, 
and oflFer him there for a burnt offering upon one of the 
mountains which I will tell thee of ; " ^^ And they came 
to the place which God had told him of, and Abraham 
built an altar there, and laid the wood in order, and 
bound Isaac his son, and laid him on the altar upon the 
wood ; and Abraham stretched forth his hand and took 
the knife to slay his son." Shocking attempt ! Murder 
is allowed by mankind in general to be the most capital 
crime that is possible to be acted among men ; it would 
therefore be incompatible with the divine nature to have 
enjoined it by a positive command to Abraham to have 
killed his son ; a murder of all others the most unnatu- 
ral and cruel arifl attended with the most aggravating 
circumstances, not merely from a prescribed breach of 
the ties of parental affection, but from the consideration 
that the child was to be (if we may credit the com- 
mand,) offered to God as a religious sacrifice. What 
could have been a more complicated wickedness than the 
obedience of this command would have been ? and what 

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94 OBACLE8 OF REASON. 

can be more absurd than to suppose that it came from 
God ? It is argued, in vindication of the injunction to 
Abraham to kill his son, that it was merely for a trial of 
his obedience, and that God never designed to have him 
do it ; to prevent which an angel from heaven called to 
him and gave him counter ordei:s, not to slay his son ; 
but to suppose that God needed such an experiment, or 
any other, in order to know whether Abraham would be 
obedient to his commands, is utterly incompatible with 
his omniscience, who without public exhibitions under- 
stands all things ; so that had the injunction been in 
itself, fit and reasonable, and also from God, the com- 
pliance or non-compliance of Abraham thereto, could 
not have commuiucated any new idea to the divine mind. 
Every part of the conduct of mankind is a trial of their 
obedience and is known to God, as well as the particular 
conduct of Abraham ; besides in the canonical writings, 
we read that ^'God cannot be tempted with evil, neither 
iempteth he any manJ*^ How then can it be, '* that God 
did tempt Ahraham ? " a sort of employment which, in 
scripture, is commonly ascribed to the devil. It is a 
very common thing to hear Abraham extolled for at- 
tempting to comply with the supposed command of sac- 
rificing his son ; but it appears to me, that it had been 
wiser and more becoming the character of a virtuous 
man, for Abraham to have repHed in answer to the in- 
junction as follows, to wit, that it could not possi- 
bly have come from God ;- who was the fountain of 
goodness and perfection, and imchangeable in his nature, 
who had endowed him with reason and understanding, 
whereby he knew his duty to God, his son, and to him- 

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OKACLE OF REASON. 95 

self, better than to kill his only son, and oflfer him as a 
religious sacrifice to God, for God would never have 
implanted in his mind such a strong afiection towards 
him, nor such a conscious sense of duty to provide for, 
protect and succor him in all duties, and to promote his 
happiness and well being, provided he had designed that 
he should have laid violent hands on his life. And inas- 
much as the command was, in itself, morally speaking, 
unfit, and altogether unworthy of God, he presumed 
that it never originated from him, but from some inhu- 
man, cruel and destructive being, who delighted in wo, 
and pungent grief; for God could not have been the 
author of so base an injunction, nor could he be pleased 
with so inhuman and sinful a sacrifice. 

Moses in his last chapter of Deuteronomy crowns his 
history with the particular account of his own "death and 
burial. " So Moses, the servant of the Lord, died there, 
in the land of Moab, according to the word of the Lord, 
and he buried him in a valley, in the land of Moab, 
over against Bethpeor, but no man knew of his sepul- 
chre imto this day ; and Moses was an hundred and 
twenty years old when he died, his eyes were not dim, 
nor his natural force abated, and the children of Israel 
wept for Moses in the plains of Moab thirty days." 
This is the only historian in the circle of my reading, 
who has ever given the public a particular account of 
his own death, and how old he was at that decisive 
period, where he died, who buried him, and where he 
was buried, and withal of the number of days his 
friends and acquaintances mourned and wept for him. 
I must confess I do not expect to be able to advise the 

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96 OBACLESOFBEASOK. 

public of the term of my Hfe, nor the drcomstances of 
my death and burial^ nor of the days of the weeping or 
laughing of my survivors. 

Part of the laws of Moses were arbitrary impositions 
upon the tribes of Israel, and have no foundation in the 
reason and fitness of things, particularly that in which 
he inculcates punishing the children for the iniquities of 
the father ; <* visiting the iniquities pf the fathers upon 
the children, and upon the children's children unto the 
third and fourth generation." There is no reason to be 
given, why the iniquity of the &ther might not as well 
have involved the fifth, sixth and seventh generations, 
and so on to the latest posterity in guilt and punishment, 
as the first four generations ; for if it was possible, that 
the iniquity of the father could be justly visited upon 
any of his posterity, who were not accomplices with him 
in the iniquity, or were not some way or other aiding 
or accessary in it, then the iniquity might as justly be 
visited upon any one of the succeeding generations as 
upon another, or upon the generation of any indifferent 
person : for arbitrary imputations of iniquity are equally 
absurd in all supposable cases ; so that if we once admit 
the possibility of visiting iniquity upon any others than 
the perpetrators, be they who they will, we overturn our 
natural and scientifical notions of a personal retribution 
of justice among mankind. It is, in plain English, 
punishing the innocent for the sin of the guilty. But 
virtue or vice cannot be thus visited or imputed from the 
fathers to the unoffending children, or to children's 
children ; or which is the same thing, from the guilty to 
the innocent ; for moral good or evil is mental and per- 

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OBACLES OF REASON. 97 

sonal, which cannot be transferred, changed or altered 
from one person to another, but is inherently connected 
with its respective personal actors, and constitutes a 
quality or habit, and is the merit or demerit of the re- 
spective agents or proficients in moral good or evil, and 
is by nature inalienable, *^ The righteousness of the 
righteous )^hall be upon him, and the wickedness of the 
wicked shall be upon him." But as we shall have occa- 
sion to argue this matter at large in the twelfth chapter 
of this treatise, where we shall treat of the imputed sin 
of Adam to his posterity, and of imputative righteous- 
ness, we will discuss the subject of imputation no farther 
in this place. However, the unjust practice of puiiish- 
ing the children for the iniquity of the father having 
been an ordinance of Moses, was more or less continued 
by the Israelites, as in the case of Achan and his chil- 
dren, '^ And Joshua and all Israel with him took 
Achan the son of Zorah, and the silver and the garment, 
and the wedge of gold, and his sons, and his daughters, 
and his oxen, and his asses, and his sheep, and his tent, 
and all that he had, and brought them to the valley of 
Anchor, and all Israel stoned him with stones, and burned 
them with fire, after they had stoned them with stones, 
and they raised over him a great heap of stones unto 
this day ; so the Lord turned from the fierceness of his 
anger." ** Fierce anger " is incompatible with the di- 
vine perfection, nor is the cruel extirpation of the inno- 
cent family, and live stock of Achan, to be accounted for 
on principles of reason. This flagrant injustice of pun- 
ishing 'the children for the iniquity of the fiither had 
introduced a proverb in Israel, viz ; '' The fathers have 

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98 0BACLE8 0PBEAS0K. 

eaten sour grapes and the children's teeth are set on 
edge." But the prophet Ezekiel in the 18th chapter of 
his prophecies^ has confuted Moses's statutes of visiting . 
the iniquities of the fether upon the children, and re- 
pealed them with the authority of thus saith the Lord, 
which was the manner of expression by which they 
were promulgated. But the prophet Ezelqel did not 
repeal those statutes of Moses merely by the authority 
of thus saith the Lordy but over and above gives the 
reason for it, otherwise he could not have repealed them ; 
for Moses enacted them as he relates, from as high au- 
thority as Ezekiel could pretend to in nullifying them ; 
so that had he not produced reason and argument, it 
would have been '' thus saith the Lord," against '* thus 
saith the Lord." But Ezekiel reasons conclusively, viz : 
** The word of the Lord came unto me again, saying, 
what meat ye that ye use this proverb concerning the 
land of Israel, saying, the fathers have eaten sour grapes 
and the children's teeth are set on edge ; as I live, saith 
the Lord God, ye shall not have occasion any more to 
use this proverb in Israel. Behold all souls are mine, as 
the soul of the father so also the soul of the son is mi^e ; 
the soul that sinneth it shall die, the son shall not bear 
the iniquity of the father, neither shall the £ither bear 
the iniquity of the son, the righteousness of the righteous 
shall be upon him, and the wickedness of the wicked 
shall be upon him, therefore, I will judge you, O house 
of Israel, every one according to their ways saith the 
Lord God." It is observable, that the prophet in- 
geniously says, " Ye shall not have occasion any.more to 
use this proverb In Israel," implicitly acknowledging 

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0BACLES0FBSA80K. 99 

that the law of Moses had given occasion to that proverb^ 
nor was it possible to remove that proverb or grievance 
to which the Israelites were liable on account of visiting 
the iniquities of the fathers upon the children, but by 
the repeal of the statute of Moses in that case made and 
provided; which was effectually done by Ezekiel: in 
consequence whereof the administration of justice became 
disencumbered of the embarrassments imder which it 
had labored for many centuries. Thus it appears^ that 
those laws, denominated the laws of God, are not inM- 
lible, but have their exceptions and may be dispensed 
with. 

Under the dispensation of the law a breach of the 
Sabbath was a capital offence. *' And while the children 
of Israel were in the wilderness, they found a man that 
gathered sticks on the Sabbath day, and the Lord said 
unto Moses, the man shall surely be put to death, and 
all the congregation shall stone him with stones without 
the camp ; and all the congregation brought him with- 
out the camp and stoned him with stones, and he died, 
as the Lord commanded Moses." The very institution 
of the Sabbath was in itself arbitrary, otherwise it would 
not have been changed from the last to the first day of 
the w^k. For those ordinances which are predicated 
on the reason and fitness of things can never change : 
as that which is once morally fit, always remains so, and 
is immutable, nor could the same crime, in justice, 
deserve death in Moses's time (as in the instance of the 
Israelite's gathering sticks), and but a pecuniary fine in 
ours ; as in the instance of the breach of Sabbath in 
these times. 

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100 ORACL£S OF BEA.SOK. 

Furthermore, the order of nature respecting day and 
night, or the succession of time, is such, as renders it 
impossible that any identical part of time, which consti- 
tutes one day, can do it to all the inhabitants of the globe 
at the same time, or in the same period. Day is perpet- 
ually dawning, and night commencing to some or other 
of the inhabitants of the terraqueous ball without inter- 
mission. At the distance of fifteen degrees of longitude 
to the east of us, the day begins an hour sooner than it 
does with us here in Vermont, and with us an hour 
sooner than it does fifteen degrees to the westward, and 
thus it continues in succession round the globe, and night 
as regularly revolving after it, succeeding each other in 
their alternate roimds ; so that when it is mid-day with 
us, it is mid-night with our species, denominated the 
Teriaciy who Hve under the same parallel of latitude with 
us, but under a directly opposite meridian ; so likewise, 
when it is mid-day with them, it is mid-night with us. 
Thus it appears that the same identical part of time, 
which composes our days, compose their nights, and 
while we are keeping Sunday, they are in their midnight 
dreams ; nor is it possible in nature, that the same iden- 
tical part of time, which makes the first day of the week 
wh us, should make the first day of the week with the 
inhabitants on the opposite side of the globe. The 
apostle James speaks candidly on this subject, saying, 
*^ Some esteem one day above another, others esteem 
every day alike, let every one be fiiUy persuaded in his 
own mind," and keep the laws of the land. It was 
unfortunate for the Israelite who was accused of gath-* 
ering sticks on the Israelitbh Sabbath, that he was con- 

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ORACLES QF BEASOK. 101 

victed of it ; for though by the law of his people Jjfi 
must have died, yet the act for which he suffered was 
no breach of the law of nature. Supposing that very 
delinquent should come to this world again, and gather 
sticks on Saturday in this country, he might as an hireling 
receive his, wages for it, without being exposed to a sim- 
ilar prosecution of that of Moses ; and provided he should 
gather sticks on our Sunday, his wages would atone for 
his crime instead of his Hfe, since modem legislators have 
abated the rigor of the law for which he died. 

The barbarous zeal of the prophet Samuel in hewing 
Agag to pieces after he was made prisoner by Saul, king 
of Israel, could not proceed from a good spirit, nor would 
such cruelty be permitted towards a prisoner in any civ- 
ilized nation at this day. ^^ And Samuel hewed Agag to 
pieces before the Lord in Gilgal." The unmanly deed 
seems to be mentioned with a phiz of religion, viz : that 
it was done before the Lord ; but that cannot alter the 
nature of the act itself, for every act of mankind, whether 
good or evil, is done before the Lord, as much as SamuePs 
hewing Agag to pieces. The orders which Samuel gave 
unto Saul, (as he says by the word of the Lord) to cut 
off the posterity of the Amalekites, and to destroy them 
utterly, together with the cause of God's displeasure witi 
them, are unworthy of God as may be seen at large in 
the 15 th chapter of the Book of Samuel. '* Spare them 
not, but slay both mau and woman, infent and suckling^ 
ox and sheep, camel and ass." The ostensible reason for 
all this, was, because the ancestors of the Amalekites, as 
long before the days of Samuel as when the children of 
Israel came out of Egypt, which was near fiv^ hundred 

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102 OBACLES OF BBASOK. 

years^ had ambushed and fought against Israel^ in their 
passage from thence to the land which they afterwards 
inhabited. Although it appears from the history of Moses 
and Joshua^ that Israel was going to disposess them of 
their country, which is thought to be a sufficient cause of 
war in these days. It is true they insinuate that the 
Lord had given the land to the children of Israel^ yet 
it appears that they had to fight for it and get it by the 
hardest^ notwithstanding, as is the case with nations in 
these days, and ever has been smce the knowledge of 
history. 

But be the old quarrel between Israel and Amalek as it 
will, it cannot on any principle be supposed, the succes- 
sors of those Amal^kites, in the days of Samuel, could 
be guilty of any premised transgressions of their prede- 
cessors. The sanguinary laws of Moses did not admit of 
visiting the iniquities of the fathers upon the children in 
the line of succession, &rther than to the fourth genera- 
tion, but the Amalekites against whom Samuel had 
denounced the wrath of Grod, by the hand of Saul, were 
at a much greater remove from those their progenitors, 
who were charged with the crime for which they were 
cut off as a nation. Nor is it compatible with reason to 
suppose, that God ever directed either Moses or Joshua 
to extirpate the Canaanitish nations. '' And we took al^ 
his cities at that time, and utterly destroyed the men and 
the women, and the little ones of every city, we left none 
to remain." There is not more propriety in ascribing 
these cruelties to God, than those that were perpetrated 
by the Spaniards against the Mexican and Peruvian 
Indians or natives of America. Every one who dares to 



OBACLE8 OF SEASON. 103 

exercise his reason^ free from bias, will readily discern^ 
that the inhumanities exercised towards the Canaanites 
and Amorites, Mexicans and Peruvians, were detestably 
wicked, and could not be approbated by God, or by ra- 
tional and good men. Undoubtedly avarice and domi- 
nation were the causes of those abounding cruelties, in 
which religion had as little to do as in the crusades of the 
holy land (so called.) 

The writings of the prophets abound with prodigies, 
strange and unnatural events. The walls of Jericho are 
represented to have fellen to the ground in consequence 
of a blast of ram's horns ; Balaam's ass to speak to his 
master, and the prophet Elijah is said to have been carried 
off bodily into heaven by a chariot, in a whirlwind. 
Strange stories ! But other scriptures tell us, " Flesh 
and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God." The 
history of the affront, which the little children of Bethel 
gave the prophet Elisha, his cursing them, and their de- 
struction by the bears, has the appearance of a fiible. 
That Elisha should be so exasperated at the children for 
calling him bald head, and telling him to go up, was 
rather a sample of ill breeding ; most gentlemen would 
have laughed at the joke, instead of cursing them, or 
being instrumental in their destruction, by merciless, 
wild and voracious beasts. Though the children were 
saucy, yet a man of any considerable candor, would have 
made allowance for dieir non-age, ^' for childhood and 
youth are vanity." '^ And he went up from thence imto 
Bethel, and as he was going up by the way, there came 
forth Uttle children out of the city and mocked him, and 
said imto him, go up thou bald-head,^go^ ug thou bald- 



104 OBA«I*£S OF BEASON. 

head^ and he turned back and looked on them, and lie 
cursed them in the name of the Lord, and there came forth 
two she bears out of the wood, and tare forty and two 
children of them." It seems by the children's address 
to Elisha, that he was an old bald-headed man, and that 
they had heard, that his mate^ Elijah, had gone up a little 
before ; and as it was an uncommon thing for men to 
kite away into the air, and leave the world after that sort, 
it is likely that it excited a curiosity in the children to 
see Elisha go off with himself in the same manner, which 
occasioned their particular mode of speech to him, saying, 
*'go up bald head/* The writings of Solomon, King of 
Israel, must needs have been foisted into the canonical 
volume by some meajas or other, for no one passage 
therein gives the least intimation of inspiration, or that 
he had any immediate dictation irom God in his compo- 
sitions, but on the contrary, he informs us, that he ac- 
quired his knowledge by applying himself to wisdom, " to 
seek and to search out concerning all things that are done 
under th^ sun. This sore travail," says he, " has God 
given to the sons of men to be exercised therewith." And 
since Solomon never pretended to inspiration, others can- 
not justly claim his writings to have been anything 
more than natural reasonings, for who can, with propri- 
ety stamp his writings with divine authority, when he 
pretended no such thing, but the contrary ? His song of 
songs appears to be rather of the amorous kind, and is 
supposed to have been written at the time he was making 
love to the daughter of Pharaoh, King of Egypt, who is 
said to have been a princess of exquisite beauty and 
exceeding coy, and so captivated his affections that it 

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OBACLES OF BEA.SOK. 105 

made him light headed and sing about the ^^ joints of her 
thighs,'' and her " belly.'' 

The divine legation of Moses and the prophets is ren- 
dered questionable from the consideration that they never 
taught the doctrine of immortality^ their rewards and 
punishments are altogether temporary^ terminating at 
deadi ; they have not so much as exhibited any speculation 
of surviving the grave ; to this is ascribed the unbelief of 
the Sadducees of the resurection of the dead, or of an 
angel or spirit, as they strenuously adhered to the law of 
Moses, for they could not imagine, but that their great 
prophet and law giver would have apprised them of a 
state of immortality had it been true ; and in this the 
Sadducees seem to argue with force on their position of 
the divine l^ation of Moses. For admitting the reality 
of man's immortality, it appears incredible to suppose, 
that God should have specially commissioned Moses, as 
his prophet and instructor to the tribes of Israel, and not 
withal to have instructed them in the important doctrine 
of a future existence. 
,6* 



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106 OBACLES OF SEASON. 



SECTION in. 

DREAMS OR VISIONS UNCERTAIN AND CHIMERICAL CHANNEL 
POR THE CONVEYANCE OF REVELATION ; WITH REMARKS 
ON THE COMMUNICATION OF THE HOLY GHOST TO THE 
DISCIPLES, BY THE PRAYERS AND LAYING ON OF THE 
APOSTLES HANDS, WITH OBSERVATIONS ON THE DIVINE 
DICTATIONS OF THE FIRST PROMULGATORS OF THE GOSPEL, 
AND AN ACCOUNT OF THE ELECT LADY, AND HER NEW 
SECTARY OF SHAKERS. 

It appears from the writings of the prophets and 
apostles, that part of their revelations were communicated 
to them by dreams and visions, which have no other ex- 
istence but in the imagination, and are defined to be ** the 
images which appear to the mind during sleep, figuratively, 
a chimera, a groundless fency or conceit, without reason." 
Our experience agrees with this definition, and evinces 
that there is no trust to be reposed in them. They are 
fictitious images of the mind, not under the control of 
the understanding, and therefore not regarded at this day 
except by the credulous and superstitious, who still retain 
a veneration for them. But that a revelation from God 
to man, to be continued to the latest posterity as a divine 
and perfect rule of duty or law, should be communicated 
through such a fictitious and chimerical channel, carries 
with it the evident marks of deception itself, or of unin- 
telligibleness, as appears from the vision of St. Paul. 
«' It is not expedient for me doubtless to glory, I will 
come to visions and revelations of the Lord ; I knew a 
man in Christ above fourteen years ago, whether in the 
body I cannot tell, or whether out of the body I 
cannot teU, God knoweth s^ch aA ,oi,^,,@gg^e«P ^q 



OBACLES OF BEASON. 107 

the third heavens. And I knew such a man, whetiier 
in the body or out of the body I cannot tell, God know- 
eth how that he was caught up into Paradise and heard 
unspeakable words which it is not lawful for a man to 
utter." That God knoweth the whole afl^, will not be 
disputed, but that we should understand it is impossible^ 
for the apostle's account of his vision is unintelligible ; 
it appears that he was rather in a delirium or a stupor, so 
that he knew not that whether he was in or out of the body: 
he says he heard " unspeakable words/' but this commimi- 
cates no intelligence of the subject-matter of them to us ; 
and that they " were not lawful for a man to utter y' but 
what they were, or wherein their unlawfulness to be 
uttered by man consisted, he does not inform us. His 
revelation from his own story was unspeakable and un- 
lawful, and so he told us nothing what it was, nor does 
it compose any part of revelation, which is to malce known. 
He is explicit as to his being caught up to the third 
heaven, but how he could understand that is incredible, 
when at the same time he knew not whether he was in 
the body or out of the body ; and if he was in such a 
delirium that he did not know so domestic a matter as 
that, it is not to be supposed that he could be a compe- 
tent judge whether he was at the first, second, third, or 
fourth heaven, or whether he was advanced above the 
surface of the earth, or not. 

That the apostles in their ministry were dictated by the 
Holy Ghost, in the settlement of disputable doctrines, is 
highly questionable. *^ Forasmuch as we have heard that 
certain, which went out from us have troubled you with 
words, subverting your souls, saying, ye must be circum- 



108 0BACLB8 OFBEASOK. 

cised and keep the law^ to whom we gave no such com- 
mandment^ for it seemed good to the Holy Ghost^ and to 
ns^ to lay upon you no other burden than these necessary 
things." Acts 15. And after having given a history of 
the disputations concerning circumcision^ and of keeping 
the law of Moses, and of the result of the coundl, the 
same chapter informs us, that a contention happened so 
sharp between Paul and Barnabas, ^'that they parted 
asunder the one from the other." Had the Holy Ghost 
been the dictator of the first teachers of Christianity, as 
individuals, there could have been no disputable doctrines 
or controversies, respecting the religion which they were 
promulgating in the world or in the manner of doing it, 
to be referred to a general council of the apostles and 
elders held at Jerusalem," for had they been directed by 
the Holy Ghost, there could have been no controversies 
among them to have referred to the council. And inas- 
much as the Holy Ghost neglected them as individuals, why 
is it not as likely that it neglected to dictate the council 
held at Jerusalem or elsewhere 1 It seems that the Holy 
Ghost no otherwise directed them in their plan of religion, 
than by the general council of the apostles and elders, 
the same as all other communities are governed. *^ Paul 
having passed through the upper coasts came to Ephesus, 
and finding certain disciples, he said unto them have ye 
received the Holy Ghost since ye believed ? and they 
said unto him we have not so much as heard whether 
there be any Holy Ghost ; and when Paul had laid his 
hands upon them, the Holy Ghost came on them, and 
they spoke with tongues and prophesied." 

The spirit of God is that which constitutes the divine 



OBACLES OF BEASON. 109 

essence^ and makes him to be what he is^ but that he 
should be dictated^ or his spirit be commimicated by any 
acts or ceremonies of the apostles^ is by no means admis* 
sible ; for such exertions of the apostles^ so far as they 
may be supposed to communicate the holy spirit to their 
disciples^ would have made God passive in the premised 
act of the gifk of the spirit ; for it must have been either the 
immediate act of God or of the apostles^ and if it was 
the immediate act of the one^ it could not have been the 
immediate act of the other. 

To suppose that the act of the gift of the spirit was 
the mere act of Gt>d^ and at the same time the mere act 
of the apostles^ are propositions diametrically opposed to 
each other, and cannot both be true. But it may be 
supposed that the gift of the spirit was partly the act of 
God and partly the act of the apostles ; admitting this to 
have been the case the consequences would follow, that 
the act of the gift of the spirit was partly divine and 
partly human, and therefore the beneficence and glory of 
the grant of the gift of the spirit unto the disciples, 
would belong partly to God and partly to the apostles, 
and in an exact proportion to that which God and they 
may be supposed to have respectively contributed towards 
the marvellous act of the gift of the spirit. But that 
God should act in partnership with man, or share his 
providence and glory with him, is too absurd to demand 
argumentative confutation, especially in an act which 
immediately respects the display or exertion of the divine 
spirit on the spirits of men. 

Such delusions have taken place in every age of the 
world since history has attained to any considerable 



110 OBACLES OF SEASON. 

degree of intelligence ; nor is there at present a natum 
on earth, but what is more or less infatuated with delu- 
sory notions of the immediate influence of good or evil 
spirits on their minds. A recent instance of it appears 
in the Elect Lady (as she has seen fit to style herself) 
and her followers, called Shakers ; this pretended holy 
woman began her religious scheme at Connestaguna ; 
in the northwestardly part of the State of NeT«. York, 
about the year 1769, and has added a new sectary to the 
reUgious catalogue. After having instilled her tenets 
among the Connestagunites, and the adjacent inhabitants, 
she rambled into several parts of the country, promul- 
gating her religion, and has gained a considerable number 
of scattering proselytes, not only in the State of New 
York, but some in the New England States. She has 
so wrought on the minds of her female devotees, re- 
specting the. fading nature, vanity and tempting allure- 
ments of their ornaments (which by the by are not plenty 
among her followers,) and the deceitfulness of riches, 
that she has procured from them a considerable number 
of strings of gold beads and jewels, and amassed a small 
treasure ; and like most sectaries engrosses the kingdom 
of heaven to herself and her followers, to the seclusion 
of all others. She gives out that her mission is 
immediately from heaven, that she travails in pain for 
her elect, and pretends to talk in seventy-two unknown 
languages, in which she converses with those who have 
departed this life, and says, that there has not been a 
true church on earth since the apostles days until she 
had erected hers. That both the living and the dead 
must be saved in, by, and through her, and that they 



OBACLBS OF REASON. Ill 

must confess their sins unto her and procure her pardon, 
or cannot be saved. That every of the human race who 
have died since the apostle's time, until her church was 
set up has been damned, and that they are continually 
making intercession to her for salvation, which is the 
occasion of her talking to them in those unknown 
tongues ; and that she gathers her elect from earth and 
hell. She wholly refuses to give a reason for what she 
does or says : but says that it is the duty of mankind to 
believe ii;i her, and receive her instructions, for they are 
infallible. 

For a time she prohibited her disciples from propaga- 
ting their species, but soon after gave them ample license, 
restricting them, indiscriminately, to the pale of her 
sanctified church, fpr that she nedeed more souls to com- 
plete the number of her elect. Among other things, she 
instructs those who are young and sprightly among her 
pupils, to practise the most wild, freakish, wanton and 
romantic gestures, as to that of indecently stripping them- 
selves, twirling round, extorting their features, shaking 
and twitching their bodies and limbs into a variety of 
odd ^nd unusual ways, and many other extravagancies of 
external behavior, in the practice of whidi they arc said 
to be very alert even to the astonishment of spectators, 
having by use acquired an uncommon agility in such 
twirling, freakish and romantic practices. The old Lady 
having such an ascendancy over them as to make them 
believe that those extravagant actions were occasioned by 
the immediate power of God, it serves among them as a 
proof of the divinity of her doctrines. 

A more particular account of this new sectary has been 



112 OBACLES OF BEASOK. 

lately pubUshed in a pamphlet by a Mr. Bathburn^ who, 
as lie relates^ was for a time> one of her deluded disciples^ 
but after a while apostatised from the faith^ and has since 
announced to the world the particulars of their doctrine 
and conduct. 

Probably there never was any people or country, since 
the era of historical knowledge, who were more confident 
than they that they are acted upon by the immediate 
agency of the divine spirit ; and as there are facts now 
existing in a considerable tract of country, and are no- 
toriously known in this part of America, I take the liberty 
to mention them, as a knowledge of these &cts, together 
with the concurrent testimony of the history of such 
deceptions in all ages and nations, might induce my 
countrymen to examine strictly into the claim and reality 
of ghostly intelligence in general. 



CHAPTER VIII. 
SECTION I. 

OF THE NATURE OF FAITH AND WHEREIN IT CONSISTS. 

Faith in Jesus Christ and in his Gospel throughout 
the New Testament, is represented to be an essential 
condition of the eternal salvation of mankind. *^ Know- 
ing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but 
by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus 
Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, 
and not by the works of the law, for by the works of the law 
shall no flesh be justified." Again, ** If thou shalt con* 



OBAOLES OF SEASON. 113 

fess the Lord Jesus Christ, and believe in thine heart 
that God hath raised him from the dead, thou mayst be 
saved." And again, " He that beUeveth and is baptized 
shall be saved, but he that believeth not shall be 
damned." Faith is the last result of the understanding, 
or the same which we call the conclusion, it is the con- 
sequence of a greater or less deduction of reasoning from 
certain premises previously laid down ; it is the same as 
believing or judging of any matter of fact, or assenting 
to or dissenting from the truth of any doctrine, system 
or position ; so that to form a judgment, or to come to a 
determination in one's own mind, or to believe, or to 
have faith, is in reality the same thing, and is sjmony- 
mously applied both in writing and speaking, for example, 
" Abraham believed in God." Again, *^ for he," speak- 
ing of Abraham, "judged him faithful who had prom- 
ised," and again " his faith was counted unto him for 
righteousness." It is not only in scripture that we meet 
with examples of the three words, to wit, belief, judgment, 
and faith, to stand for the marks of our ideas for the 
same thing, but also all intelligible writers'and speakers 
apply these phrases sjmonymously, and it would be good 
grammar and sense, for us to say that we have faith in 
a universal providence, or that we judge that there is a 
universal providence. These three ^ different phrases, 
in communicating our ideas of providence, do every one 
of them exhibit the same idea, to all persons of common 
understanding, who are acquainted with the English 
language. In fine, every one's experience may convince 
them that they cannot assent to, or dissent from the truth 
of any matter of fact, doctrine or proposition whatever. 

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114 OBACLES OF BEA80K. 

contrary to their judgment ; for the act of the mind in 
assenting to or dissenting from any position, or in having 
faith or belief in favor of, or against any doctrine, system, 
or proposition, could not amount to anything more or 
less, than the act of the judgment, or last dictate of the 
understanding, whether the understanding be supposed 
to be rightly informed or not : so that our £uth in all 
cases is as liable to err, as our reason is to misjudge of 
the truth ; and our minds act faith in disbelieving any 
doctrine or system of religion to be true, as much as in 
believing it to be so. From hence it appears, that the 
mind cannot act faith in opposition to its judgmeiit, but 
that it is the resolution of the understanding itself com- 
mitted to memory or writing, and can never be considered 
distinct from it. And inasmuch as faith necessarily 
results from reasoning, forcing itself upon oiu: minds by 
the evidence of truth, or the mistaken apprehension of 
it, without any act of choice of ours, there cannot be any 
thing, which pertains to, or partakes of the nature of 
moral good or evil in it For us to believe such doctrines, 
or systems of religion, as appears to be credibly recom- 
mended to our reason, can no more partake of the nature 
of goodness or morality, than our natural eyes may 
be supposed to partake of it in their perception of colors ; 
for the fidth of the mind, and the sight of the eye are 
both of them necessary consequences, the one results from 
the reasonings of the mind, and the other from the per- 
ception of the eye. To suppose a rational mind without 
the exercise of fidth would be as absurd as to suppose a 
proper and complete eye without sight, or the perception 
of the common objects of that sense. The short of the 

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OBACLX OF BEASOK. 115 

matter is this^ that without reason we could not have 
&iiii, and without the eye or eyes we could not see, but 
once admitting that we are rational, £dth follows of 
course, naturally resulting from the dictates of reason. . 



SECTION IJL 

OP THE TRADITIONS OF OUR FOREFATHERS. 

It may be objected, that the far greater part of man- 
kind beUeve according to the tradition of their fore&thers, 
without examining into the grounds of it, and that argu- 
mentative deductions from the reason and nature of things, 
have, with the bulk of them, but little or no influence 
on tiieir fidth. Admitting Ithis to have been too much 
the case, and that many of them have been blameable for 
the omission of cultivating or improving their reason, and 
for not forming a better judgment concerning their re- 
spective traditions, or a juster and more exalted £dth ; 
yet this does not at all invalidate the foregoing arguments 
respecting the nature of fidth : for though it be admitted 
that most of the human race do not, or will not reason, 
with any considerable degree of propriety, on the tradi- 
tions of their fore£tthers, but receive them implicitly, 
they nevertheless establish this one proposition in their 
minds, right or wrong, that their respective traditions are 
right, for none could believe in them were they possessed 
of the knowledge that they were wrong. And as we 
have a natural bias in £tvor of our progenitors, to whose 
memory a tribute of regard is justly due, andwhose care 

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116 OSACXES OF REASOir. 

in handing down from father to son such notions of 
religion and manners, as they supposed would be for die' 
well being and happiness of their posterity in this and 
the coming world, naturally endears tradition to us, and 
prompts us to receive and venerate it. Add to this, that 
the priests of every denomination are " instant in season 
and out of season,*^ in inculcating and instilling the same 
tenets, which, with the foregoing considerations, induces 
mankind in general to give at least a tacit consent to 
their respective traditions, and without a thorough inves- 
tigation thereof, believe them to be right and very com- 
monly infallible, although their examinations are not 
attended with argumentative reasonings, from the nature 
of things ; and in the same proportion as they may be 
supposed to fall short of conclusive arguing on their 
respective traditions they cannot fail to be deceived in the 
rationality of their faith. 

But after all it may be that some of the human race 
may have been traditionally or accidentally right, in many 
or most respects. Admitting it to be so, yet they cannot 
have any rational enjoyment of it, or understand wherein 
the truth of the premised right tradition consists, or 
deduce any more satisfaction from it, than others whose 
traditions may be supposed to be wrong ; for it is the 
knowledge of the discovery of truth alone, which is 
gratifying to that mind who contemplates its superlative 
beauty. 

That tradition has had a powerful influence on the 
human mind is universally admitted, even by those who 
are governed by it in the articles or discipline of their 
faith ; for though they are blind with respect to their own 

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ORACLES OP BEASON. 117 

superstition^ yet they can perceive and despise it in others. 
Protestants vory readily discern and expose the weak 
side of Popery, and Papists are as ready and acute in 
discoyering the errors of heretics. With equal fecility do 
Christians and Mahometans spy out each others inconsis- 
tencies and both have an admirable sagacity to descry the 
superstition of the heathen nations. Nor are the Jews 
wholly silent in this matter ; ^* O God the heathen are 
come into thine inheritance, thy holy temple have they 
defiled." What abomination must this have been in the 
opinion of a nation who had monopolized all religion to 
themselves ! Monstrous vile heathen, that they should 
presume to approach the sanctum sanctorum! The 
Christians call the Mahometans by the odious name of 
infidels, but the Musslemen, in their opinion, cannot call 
the Christians by a worse name than that which they have 
given themselves, they therefore call them Christians. 

What has been already observed upon tradition, is suf- 
ficient to admonish us of its errors and superstitions, and 
the prejudices to which a bigoted attachment thereto 
exposes us, which is abundantly sufficient to excite us 
to a careful examination of our respective traditions, and 
not to rest satisfied until we have regulated our faith by 
reason. 



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118 OBACLES OF BEASON 



SECTION III. 

OUE FAITH IS GOVERNED BY OXTB REASONINGS, WHETHER 
THEY ARE SUPPOSED TO BE CONCLUSIVE OR INCONCLTJSIVB, 
AND NOT MERELY BY OTTR OWN CHOICE. 

It is written that " Faith is the gift of God." Be it 
SO, but is faith any more the gift of God than reflection, 
memory or reason are his gifts ? Was it not for memory, 
we could not retain in our minds the judgment which we 
have passed upon things ; and was it not for reasoning, 
in either a regular or irregular manner, 6r partly both, 
there could be no such thing as judging or believing ; 
so that God could not bestow the gift of fidth separate 
from the gift of reason, feith being the mere consequence 
of reasoning, either right or wrong, or in a greater or less 
degree, as has been previously argued. 

Still there is a knotty text of scripture to surmount, 
viz : ** He that believeth shall be saved, but he that 
believeth not shall be damned." This text is considered 
as crowding hard upon unbelievers in Christianity ; but 
when it is critically examined, it will be found not to 
militate at all against them, but is merely a Jesuitical 
fetch to overawe some and make others wonder. We will 
premise, that an unbeliever is destitute of &ith, which 
is the cause of his being thus denominated. The Christian 
believes the gospel to be true and of divine authority, 
the Deist believes that it is not true and not of divine 
authority; so that the Christian and Deist are both of 
them believers, and according to the express words of the 
text, ** shall be saved," and a Deist may as well retort 

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ORACLES OF REASON. 119 

upon a Christian and call him an infidel^ because he 
differs in faith from him, ,as a Christian may upon the 
Deist ; for there is the same impropriety in applying the 
cant of infidelity to either, as both are beUevers ; and it 
is impossible for us to believe contrary to our judgments 
or the dictates of understanding, whether it be rightly 
informed or not. Why then may there not in both 
denominations be honest men, who are seeking after the 
truth, and who may have an equal right to expect the 
favor and salvation of God. 



CHAPTER IX. 
SECTION I. 

A TRINITY OF PERSONS CANNOT EXIST IN THE DIVINE 
ESSENCE WHETHER THE PERSONS BE SUPPOSED TO BE 
FINITE OR INFINITE : WITH REMARKS ON ST. ATHENA- 
SIUS'S CREED. 

Of all errors which have taken place in religion, none 
have been so fatal to it as those that immediately respect 
the divine nature. Wrong notions of a God, or of his 
providence, sap its very foundation in theory and prac- 
tice, as is evident from the superstition discoverable 
among the major part of mankind ; who, instead of wor- 
shipping the true God, have been by some means or 
other infetuated to pay divine homage to mere creatures, 
or to idols made with hands, or to such as have no exist- 
enoe but in their own fertile imaginations. 

God being incomprehensible to ua, we cannot under- 
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120 OBAGLES OF SEASON. 

Stand all that perfection ia which the divine essence con- 
sists, we can nevertheless (negatively) comprehend many 
things, in which (positively) the divine essence does not 
and cannot consist. 

That it does not consist of three persons, or of any 
other number of persons, is as easily demonstrated, as 
that the whole is bigger than a part, or any other propo- 
sition in mathematics. 

We will premise, that the three persons in the sup- 
posed Trinity are either finite or infinite ; for there can- 
not in the scale of being be a third sort of beings between 
these two ; for ever so many and exalted degrees in 
finiteness is still finite, and that being who is infinite ad- 
mits of no degrees of enlargement ; and as all beings what- 
ever must be limited or unlimited, perfect or imperfect, 
they must therefore be denominated to be finite or infi- 
nite : we will therefore premise the three persons in the 
Trinity to be merely finite, considered personally and 
individually from each other, and the question would 
arise whether the supposed Trinity of finites though 
united in one essence, could be more than finite stilL 
Inasmuch as three imperfect and circumscribed beings 
united together could not constitute a being perfect or 
infinite, any more than absolute perfection could consist 
of three imperfections ; which would^ be the same as to 
suppose that infinity could be made up or compounded 
of finiteness ; or that absolute, uncreated and infinite 
perfection, could consist of three personal and imperfect 
natures. But on the other hand, to consider every of 
the three persons in the supposed Trinity, as being abso- 
lutely infinite, it would be a downright contradiction to 

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OBACLES OF BEASOK. 121 

one infinite and all comprehending essence. Admitting 
. that God the Father is infinite, it would necessarily pre- 
clude the supposed God the Son, and God the Holy 
Ghost from the god-head, or essence of God ; one infinite 
essence comprehending every power, excellency and 
perfection, which can possibly exist in the divine nature. 
Was it possible that three absolute infinites, which is the 
same as three Gods, could be contained in one and the 
self-same essence, why not as well any other number of 
infinites? But as certain as infinity cannot admit of 
addition, so certain a plurahty of infinites cannot e^st 
in the same essence ; for real infinity is strict and abso- 
lute infinity, and only that, and cannot be compounded 
of infinities or of parts, but forecloses all addition. A 
personal or circumscribed God, implies as great and 
manifest a contradiction as the mind of man can conceive 
of; it is the same as a limited omnipresence, a weak 
Almighty, or a finite God. 

From the foregoing arguments on the Trinity, we 
infer, that the divine essence cannot consist of a Trinity 
of persons, whether they are supposed to be either finite 
or infinite. 

The creed-mongers have exhibited the doctrine of the 
Trinity in an alarming point of light, viz. : " Whoever 
would be saved before all things it is necessary that he 
hold the Catholic faith, which faith, esrcept every one 
doth keep whole and undefiled, without doubt he shall 
perish everlastingly." We next proceed to the doctrine, 
^^ The Father is eternal, the Son is eternal, and the Holy 
Ghost is eternal, and yet there are not three eternals but 
one eternal.** The plain EngUsh is, that the three 



122 OBACI.ES OF BEASOir. 

persons in the Trinity are three eternals^ individualljr 
considered, and yet they are not three eternals but one 
eternal. 

To say that there are three etemab in the Trinity, 
and yet that there are not three eternals therein, is a con- 
tradiction in tenns, ad much as to say, that there are 
three persons in the Trinity and yet th^e are not three 
persons in the Trinity. 

The first proposition in the creed afBnns, that ^ the 
Father is eternal/' the second affirms that ^ the Son i» 
eternal,'' the third affirms that "the Holy Ghost is 
eternal," the fourth affirms that "there are not three 
eternals," and the fifth that there is "but one eter- 
nal" 

The reader will observe, that the three first proposi- 
tions are denied by the fourth, which denies that there 
are three eternals, though the three first propositions 
affirmed, that there were three etemak by name, viz. 
the Father, Son and Holy Ghost. The fifth proposition 
is unconnected with either of the former, and is un- 
doubtedly true, yiz. " but there is- one eternal." " The 
Father is God, the Son is God, and the Holy Ghost i& 
God, and yet there axe not three Gods but one God.'' 
Here again we have three Gods by name, affirmed to 
have an existence by the three first propositions, by the 
jfourth they, are negatived, and the fifth afiirms the truth 
again, viz, that there is " but one God." 

AdmittiDg the three first propositions to be true, to wit, 
that there are three Gods, the three could not be one and 
the same God, any more than Diana, Dagan and Moloch 
may be supposed to be the same ; and if three Gods, 

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ORACLES OF REA80K. 128 

their essences and providences would interfere and make 
universal confusion and disorder. 

^* The Father is Almighty, the Son is Almighty, and 
the Holy Ghost is Almighty, and yet there are not three 
Almighties but one Almighty." Here we have three 
Almighties and at the same time but one Almighty. So 
that the point at issue is brought to this simple question, 
viz. whether three units can be one, or one unit three or 
•not ? Which is submitted to the curious to determine. 
Our creed further informs us, that the three persons in 
the Trinity are co-eternal together and co-equal, but in 
its sequel we are told that one was b^otten of the 
other ; and when we advert to the history of that trans- 
action, we find it to be not quite eighteen hundred years 
ago, and took place in the reign of Herod, the King of 
Judea, which faith except " we keep whole and unde- 
filed," we have a threat, that *' without doubt we shall 
perish everlastingly.'** 



SECTION II. 

ESSENCE BEING THE CAUSE OF IDENTITY, IS INCONSIST- 
ENT V^TH PERSONALITY IN THE DIVINE NATURK 

One God can have but one essence, which must have 
been eternal and infinite, and for that reason precludes 
all others from a participation of his nature, glory, and 
universal and absolute perfection. 

When we speak of any being who by nature is capa- 
ble of being rightfully denominated an individual, we 

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124 OBACLES OF BEASOIV^. 

conceive of it to exist but in one essence ; so that essence 
as applied to God, denominates the divine natjwe ; and 
as applied to man, it denotes an individual : for although 
the human race is with propriety denominated the race 
of man, and though every male of the species, is with 
equal propriety called man, for that they partake of one 
common sort of nature and likeness, yet the respective 
individuals are not one and the same. The person of A 
is not the person of B, nor are they conscious of each 
other's consciousness, and therefore the joy or grief of 
A, is not and cannot be the joy or grief of B ; this is 
what we know to be a fact from our own experience. 
The reason of this personal distinction is founded in na- 
ture, for though we partake of one common nature and 
likeness, yet we do not partake of one and the same 
essence. Essence is therefore, in the order of nature, 
the primary cause of identity or sameness and cannot be 
divided. 

From hence we infer, that the doctrine of the Trinity 
is destitute of foundation, and tends manifestly to super- 
stition and idolatry. 



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ORACLES OF BEASOK. 125 



SECTION III. 



THE IMPEEPECnON OF KNOWLEDGE IN THE PERSON OF 
JESUS CHEIST, INCOMPATIBLE WITH HIS DIVINITY. 

That Jesus Christ was not God is evident from his 
own words, where, speaking of the day of judgment, he 
says, '^ Of that day and hour knoweth no man, no not 
the angels which are in Heaven, neither the Son, but the 
Father." This is giving up all pretention to divinity, 
acknowledging in the most explicit manner, that he did 
not know all things, but compares his imderstanding to 
that of man and angels ; ^' of that day and hour knoweth 
no man, no not the angels which are in heaven, neither 
the Son." Thus he ranks himself with finite beings, 
and with them acknowledges, that he did not know the 
day and hour of judgment, and at the same time ascribes 
a superiority of knowledge to the father, for that he 
knew the day and hour of judgment. 

That he was a mere creature is further evident from 
his prayer to the fether, saying, *' £ither if it be possible, 
let this cup pass from me, nevertheless, not my will but 
thine be done." These expressions speak forth the most 
humble submission to his fether's will, authority and 
government, and however becoming so submissive a dis- 
position to the divine government would be, in a creature, 
it is utterly inconsistent and unworthy of a God, or of 
the person of Jesus Christ, admitting him to have been 
a divine person, or of the essence of God, 



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126 OtACLES OF BEASOir. 

CHAPTER X. 
SECi:iON L 

OBSERVATIONS ON THE STATE OF MAN, IN MOSES'S PAR- 
ADISE, ON THE TREE OF KNOWLEDGE OF GOOD AND 
EVIL, AND ON THE TREE OF LIFE: WITH SPECULA- 
TIONS ON THE DIVINE PROHIBITION TO MAN, NOT TO 
EAT OF THE FRUIT OF THE FORMER OP THOSE TREES, 
INTERSPERSED WITH REMARKS ON THE MORTALITY OF 
INNOCENT MAN. 

The mortality of animal life^ and the dissolution of 
that of the vegetable, has been particularly considered in 
chapt^ three, section four, treating on physical evils. 
We now proceed to make an application of those argu- 
ments, in the case of our reputed first parents, whose 
mortality is represented by Moses to have taken place in 
consequence of their eating of the forbidden fruit 

Moses in his description of the garden of Eden ac- 
quaints us with two chimerical kinds of fruit trees, which, 
among others, he tells us were planted by God in the 
place appointed for the residence of the new made couple ; 
the one he calls by the name of " the tree of knowledge 
of good and evil," and the other by the name of *' the 
tree of life." And previous to his account of the apos- 
tacy, he informs us, that God expressly commanded the 
man and woman, saying, *' be fruitful and multiply and 
leplenish the earth and subdue it, and have dominion 
over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, 
and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth ; 
and God said, behold I have given you every herb bear- 

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ORACLES OF KEASOK. 127 

ing seed, which is upon the fece of all the earth, and 
every tree, in which is the fruit of a tree yielding seed, 
to you it shall be for meat" Again, «^and the Lord com- 
manded the man saying, of every tree of the garden thou 
mayest freely eat, but of the tree of knowledge of good 
and evil thou shalt not eat of it, for in the day that thou 
eatest^jJaereof thou shalt surely die." ^^ And the Lord 
said, it is not good for man to be alone, I will make him 
an help meet for him ; and the Lord God caused a deep 
sleep to fall upon Adam, and he slept, and he took out 
one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh instead thereof, 
and the rib which the Lord God had taken from man 
made he a woman. 

Thus it appears from Moses's representation of the 
fitate of man's innocency, that he was commanded by 
God to labor, and to replenish the earth ; and that to 
him was given the dominion over the creatures, and that 
at two several times he was licensed by God himself to 
eat of every of the fruit of the trees, and of the herb- 
age, except of the tree of knowledge of good and evil ; 
and because it was not good that the man should be 
alone, but that he .might multiply and replenish . the 
earth, our amorous mother Eve, it seems, was formed, 
who I dare say well compensated father Adam for the 
loss of his rib. 

This short description of man's state and condition in 
innocency, agrees with the state and circumstances of 
human nature at present Innocent man was required 
to labor and subdue the earth, out of which he was to 
be subsisted ; had a license to eat of the fruit of the 
trees, or herbage of the garden, which pre-supposeth. 

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128 OBACLES OF REASON. 

that his nature" needed refreshment the same as ours 
does ; for otherwise it would have been impertinent to 
have granted him a privilege incompatible with his 
nature, as it would have been no privilege at all, but an 
outright mockery, except we admit, that innocent human 
nature was liable to decay, needed nutrition by food, and 
had the quality of digestion and perspiration ; or in fine, 
had the same sort of nature as we have ; for otherwise 
he could eat but one belly-fuU, which without digestion 
would remain the same, and is too romantic to have been 
the original end and design of eating. And though 
there is nothing mentioned by Moses concerning his 
drinking, yet it is altogether probable, that he had wit 
enough to drink when he was thirsty. That he consisted 
of animal nature is manifest, not only from his being 
subjected to subdue the earth, out of which he was to be 
subsisted, and from his eating and drinking, or his sus- 
ceptibility of nutrition by food, but also from his pro- 
pensity to propagate his kind ; for which purpose a help- 
mate was made for him. 

Nothing could more fully evince, that Moses's inno- 
cent progenitors of mankind, in that state, were of a 
similar nature to ours, than their susceptibility of propa- 
gating the species ; and as they required nutrition, their 
nature must have had the quality or aptitude of digestion 
and perspiration, and every property that at present we 
ascribe to an animal nature ; from hence we infer, that 
death, or mortality, must have been the necessary conse- 
quence. What would have prevented them fr-om having 
been crushed to death by a fall from a precipice, or from 
ufiering death by any other casualty^ t« which human 

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OTL/LCZJLS OF REASOir. 129 

nature is at present liable ? will any suppose that the 
bodies of those premised innocent progenitors of the hu- 
man race were invidnerable ; were they not flesh and 
blood ? surely they were, for otherwise they could not 
have been male and ' female ; as it was written, *' male 
and female created he them : " and inasmuch as animal 
life has, fix)m its original, consisted of the same sort of 
nature, and been propagated and supported in the same 
manner, and obnoxious to the same fate, it would un- 
doubtedly, in the premised day of Adam, required the 
same order in the external system of nature, which it 
does at present, to answer the purposes of animal life. 

Was it possible that the laws of nature, which merely 
respect gravitation, could be and were suspended, so as 
not to be influential on matter, our world would be im- 
mediately disjointed and out of order, and confusion 
would succeed its present regularity ; in the convulsions 
whereof animal life could not subsist So that not only 
the laws which immediately respect animal nature in 
particular, but the laws which respect our solar system, 
must have been the same in man's innocency, as in his 
whimsically supposed state of apostacy; and conse- 
quently, his mortality the same. From hence we infer, 
t^at the curses, which Moses informs us of in chapter 
three : as being by God pronounced upon man, saying, 
" dust tlv>u art, and unto dust thou shalt return," could 
not have been any punishment, inflicted as a penalty for 
eating the forbidden fruit ; for turn to dust he must have 
done, whether he eat of it or not ; for that death and 
dissolution was the inevitable and irreversible conditicm 
of the law of nature, which wholly precludes tb^ curse. 



l30 OEACLBSOFEEASOir. 

of which Moses informs us, from having any effect oa 
mankind. 

The story of the " tree of life," is unnatural. And 
there being but one of the kind, it may be called an only 
tree, the world not having produced another of the sort ; 
the fruit of which, according to Moses, had such an effi- 
cacious quality, that had Adam and Eve but eaten thereof, 
they would have lived forever. *^ And now lest he put 
forth his hand and take also of the tree of life, and eat, 
and live forever.*' To prevent whicH, they are said to 
be driven out of the garden, that the eating thereof 
might not have reversed the sentence of God, which he 
had previously pronounced against them, denouncing 
their mortality. " So he drove out the man, and he 
placed at the east of the garden of Eden, cherubims, and 
a flaming sword, which tumeth every way to keep the 
way of the tree of life." A bite of this fruit it seems 
would have reinstated mankind, and spoiled priestcraft. 
Yet it is obseiTable, that there are no travellers or histo- 
rians, who have given any accounts of such a tree, or of 
the cherubims or flaming sword, which renders its exist- 
ence disputable, and the reality of it doubtftil and im- 
probable ; the more so, as that part of the country, in 
which it is said to have been planted, has for a long sus- 
cession of ages been populously inhabited. 

Yet it may be objected, that the tree may l^ave rotted 
down and consumed by time. But such conjectures 
derogate from the character of the quality of the tree. 
It seems, that so marvellous a tree, the fruit of which 
would have preserved animal life eternally, would have 
laughed at time, and id defiance to decay^nd dissolu- 

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ORACLES OF SEASON. 131 

tion, and eternally have remained in its pristine state 
under the protection of the flaming sword, as a perpetual 
evidence of the divine legation of Moses, and the reality 
of man's apostacy for ever. But alas ! it is no where to 
be found, it is perished from off the face of the earth, 
and such a marvellous fruit is no more, i^nd consequently 
no remedy against mortality remains. 



SECTION IL 

POINTING OUT THE NATURAL IMPOSSIBILITY OF ALL AND 
EVERY OF THE DIVERSE SPECIES OF BIPED ANIMALS, 
COMMONLY TERMED MAN, TO HAVE LINEALLY DE- 

' SCENDED FROM ADAM AND EVE, OR FROM THE SAME 
ORIGINAL PROGENITORS. 

It is altogether improbable and manifestly contradic- 
tory to suppose, that the various and diverse nations and 
tribes of the earth, who walk upon two legs, and are in- 
cluded under the term many have or possibly could have 
descended by ordinary generation, from the same parents, 
be they supposed to be who they will. 

Those adventurers, who have sailed or travelled to the 
several parts of the globe, inform us, in their respective 
histories, that they find the habitable part of it more or 
less populated by one kind or other of rational ani- 
, mals, and that considered as tribes or nations, there is 
evidently a gradation of intellectual capacity among 
them, some more exalted and others lower in the scale of 
being ; and that they are specially diverse from each 
other with respect to their several animal natures, though 



132 OBA«L£S OF BEASON. 

-in most respects they appear to have one sort of nature 
with us, viz.: more like us that like the brute creation ; 
as they walk erect, speak with man's voice, and make use 
of language of one sprt or other, though nwny of them 
are more or less inarticulate in their manner of speaking : 
and in many other particulars bear a general likeness to 
us. They are nevertheless considered as distinct tribes 
or nations, are of different sizes, and as to complexion, 
they vary from the two extremes of white and black, in 
a variety of tawny mediums. 

The learned nations can trace their genealogies, (though 
somewhat incorrect) for a considerable time, but are cer- 
tain to be sooner or later lost in the retrospect thereon, 
and those that are of an inferior kind, or destitute of 
learning or science have no other knowledge of their 
, genealogies, than they retain by their respective traditions, 
which are very inconsiderable. They are likewise di- 
verse from each other In their features and in the shape 
of their bodies and limbs, and some are distinguished 
from others by their rank smell and the difference in their 
hair, eyes and visage, but to point out the distinctions 
would exceed my design. 

The Ethiopians, though of a shining black complexion, 
have regular and beautiful features, and long black hair 
(one of those female beauties captivated the affections of 
Moses) they differ veiy materially from the negro blacks, 
so that it appears impossible that they should have de- 
scended in a lineal succession from the same ancestors. 
They are uniformly in their respective generations essen- 
tially diverse from each other, so that an issue from a 
male and female of the two nations would be a mongrel. 



OBACLES OF BEASON. 133 

partaking partly of the kind of both nations. So also 
concerning the diflference which subsists between us and 
the negroes ; their black skin is but one of the particu- 
lars in which they are different from us ; theirvmany and 
very essential differences fully evince, that the white na- 
tions, and they, could not according to the law of their 
respective generations, have had one and the same lineal 
original, but that they have had their diverse kind of 
original progenitors. 

It is ferue that the several nations and tribes of the 
earth, comprehended under the general term man, not- 
withstanding their diversity to each other in bodily shape 
and mental powers, bear a nearer resemblance to one 
another than the brute kind, for which reason they are 
known by one common appellation : though it is manifest 
that they could never have lineally descended from the 
same first parents, whether their names were Adam and 
Eve, or what not. 

'But inasmuch as our genealogies are wholly insuffi- 
cient for the purpose of explaining our respective orig- 
inals or any or either of them, or to give us or any of 
us, considered as individuals or nations, who fall under 
the denomination oAhe term man, any manner of insight 
or knowledge from whom we are lineally descended, or 
who were our respective original ancestors, or what their 
names were : we must therefore reason on this subject 
from the facts and causes now existing, which abundant- 
ly evince, that we are of diff<M:ent kinds, and conse- 
quently are not of the same lineage. 

The acquaintance, which we have had with the negro 
nation in particular, fully evinces the absurdity of sup- 



134 OKACIES OFREASON. 

posing them to be of the same blood and kindred with 
ourselves. But that there are some original intrinsic and 
hereditary diversity or essential difference between us 
and them, which cannot be ascribed to time, climate, or 
to mere contingence. 

For that we and they are in nature inherently and 
uniformly diverse from each other in our respective con- 
stitutions and generations, and have been so time imme- 
morial. So that the negroes are of a different species of 
rational beings from us, and consequently must have had 
their distinct lineal original ; was it not so, there could 
be no such thing as a mongrel or a mulatto, who is oc- 
casioned by a copulation between the males and the fe- 
males of the respective diverse species, the issue partaking 
of both natures. 

Had all the nations and tribes of the world, who are 
denominated rational, been lineally descended from the 
same progenitors, mongrelism cpuld never have taken place 
among them, as in this case they would have been all 
of the same kind : from hence we infer, that they have 
had their respective original progenitors. The Dutch 
colony at the Cape of Good Hope have enacted laws to 
punish with death such of their Dutch subjects as may 
be convicted of copulating with the Hottentots : for that 
their nature is adjusted to be of an inferior species to 
theirs, so that mixing their nature with them would es- 
sentially degenerate and debase theu' own. 



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OBACLE8 OF REASON. 135 



SECTION III. 
I 
OF THE ORIGIN OF THE DEVIL OR OF MORAL EVIL, AND 

OF THE devil's TALKING WITH EVE ; WITH A RE- 
MARK THAT THE DOCTRINE OF APOSTACY IS THE 
FOUNDATION OF CHRISTIANITY. 

Inasmuch as the devil is represented to have had so 
great and undue an influence in bringing about the apos- 
tacy of Adam, and still to continue his temptations to 
mankind, it may be worth our while to examine into the 
nature and manner of his being and the mode of his 
exhibiting his temptations. 

John's gospel, verse 1 and 3, the Christian's God is 
the creator of the devil and consequently the original 
cause of evil in heaven — and among men he planted 
the tree of knowledge of good and evil, and knew at the 
time he planted it of the awful consequences that would 
follow. 

But if it be admitted, that the creature called the devil 
(who must be supposed to be under the divine govern- 
ment, as much as any other creature) could become in- 
flexible, and perpetually rebellious and wicked, incapable 
of a restoration, and consequently subjected to eternal 
punishment (which to me appears to be inconsistent with 
the wisdom and goodness of the divine government, and 
the nature, end and design of a probationary agent) yet 
it would by no means follow from hence, that so stub- 
bornly wicked and incorrigible a creature would have 
been permitted, by the providence of God, to tempt, 
ensnare or seduce mankind, by plying his temptations to 
their weak side. One thing we are certain of, viz. that 



136 OKACLXS OF BEASOK. 

the devil does not visit our world in a bodily or organ- 
ize^shape, "and there is not in nature a second way, in 
which it is possible for him to make known himself to 
us, or that he could have done it to our progenitors, nor 
could he ever have communicated to them or to us, any 
temptations or ideas whatever, any otherwise than by 
making a proper application to our external senses, so 
that we could understand him, or receive the ideas of his 
temptations in a natural way. For supernatural inter- 
course with the world of spirits or invisible beings has 
been eihown to be contradictory and impossible in the ar- 
guments contained in the sixth chapter, to which the 
reader is referred. Those arguments will hold equally 
good as applied to either good or evil spirits, and are 
demonstrative of the utter impossibility of mankind^s 
holding any manner of intercourse or intelligence with 
them. 

But should we premise, that, according to the history 
. of Moses, it was" in the power of the devil to assume a 
bodily shape, and that he did in very deed transform 
himself into the figure, likeness and organization of a 
snake, yet by and with that organ he could not have 
spoken or uttered the following articulate words, which 
Moses charged him with, to wit, *' And the serpent said 
unto the woman, ye shall not surely die, for God doth 
know, that in the day ye eat thereof, that your eyes shall 
be opened, and ye shall be as Gods knowing good and 
evil." 

Who speaks the truth in the above passages, the devil, 
for neither the man nor the woman died for many years 
after they are said to have eaten of the forbidden fruit, 



OBACLBS OF BSASOK. 137 

for death is the annihaation of life, and they did not die 
on the day they eat. 

As the serpent is by nature incapable of speech, it 
must have put the devil into the same predicament, ad- 
mitting that he transformed himself into the same figure 
or likeneBs, and consequently for want of the proper and 
adequate organs of speech, he must necessarily have been 
incapable of any bther language than that of rattUng his 
tail, and therefore could never have spoken those recited 
words unto Eve, or communicated any of his tempta- 
tions unto her by language, while in that similitude. 
However, admitting that the first paients of mankind 
were beguiled by the wiles of the devil to transgress the 
divine law, yet of all transgressions it would have been 
the most trivial (considered under all the particular cir- 
cumstances of it) that the mind of man can conceive of. 

Who in the exercise of reason can believe, that Adam 
and Eve by eating of such a spontaneous fruit could 
have incurred the eternal displeasure of God, as individ- 
uals.? Or that the divine vindictive justice should ex- 
tend to their unoffending offspring then unborn ? And 
sentence the human progeny to the latest posterity to 
everlasting destruction ? As chimerical as Moses's rep- 
resentation of the apostacy of man manifestly appears to 
be, yet it is the very basis, on which Chi-istianity is 
founded, and is announced in the New Testament to be 
the very cause why Jesus Christ came into this world, 
*^ that he might destroy the works of the devil," and re- 
deem fallen man, alias, the elect, from the condemnation 
of the apostacy ; which leads me to the consideration of 
the doctrine of imputation. 

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138 OBACLES OF BlASOlf 



CHAPTER XI. 
SECTION 1. 

IMPUTATION CANNOT CHANGE, ALIENATE OR TRANSFER 
THE PERSONAL DEMERIT OF SIN ; AND PERSONAL 
MERIT OF A1RTUE TO OTHERS, WHO WERE NOT AC- 
TIVE THEREIN, ALTHOUGH THIS DOCTRINE SUPPOSES 
AN ALIENATION THEREOF. 

The doctrine of imputation according to the Christian 
scheme, consists of two parts ; first, of imputation of the 
apostacy of Adam and Eve to their posterity, commonly 
called original sin ; and secondly, of the imputation of 
the merits or righteousness of Christ, who in scripture is 
called the second Adam, to mankind, or to the elect 
This is a concise definition of the doctrine, and which 
will undoubtedly be admitted to be a just one by every 
denomination of men, who are acquainted with Chris- 
tianity, whether they adhere to it or not. I therefore 
proceed to illustrate and explain the doctrine by tran- 
scribing a short, but very pertinent conversation, which 
in the early years of my manhood, I had with a Calvin- 
istical divine : but previously remark, that I was edu- 
cated in what is commonly called the Armenian princi- 
ples, and among other tenets to reject the doctrine of 
original sin, this was the point at issue between the cler- 
gyman and me. In my turn I opposed the doctrine of 
original sin with philosophical reasonings, and as I 
thought had confuted the doctrine. The reverend gen- 
tleman heard me through patiently, and with candor re- 
plied, " your metaphysical reasonings are not to the 

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OBACLES OF R£A80N. 139 

purpose ; inasmuch as you are a Christian, and hope and 
expect to be saved by the imputed righteousness of 
Christ to you ; for you may as well be imputedly sinful^ 
as imputedly righteous. Nay, said he, if you hold to 
the doctrine of satisfaction and atonement by Christ, by 
so doing you pre-suppose the doctrine of apostacy or 
original sin to be in fact true ; for said he, if mankind 
were not in a ruined and condemned state by nature, 
there could have been no need of a redeemer, but each 
individual would have been accountable to his creator 
and judge, upon the basis of his own moral agency. 
Further observing, that upon philosophical principles it 
was difficult to account for the doctrine of original sin, 
OT original righteousness, yet as they were plain funda- 
mental doctrines of the Christian faith, we ought to as- 
sent to the truth of them, and that from the divine au- 
thority of revelation. Notwithstanding, said he, if you 
will give me a philosophical explanation of original im- 
puted righteousness, which you profess to believe, and 
expect salvation by, then I will return you a philosophi- 
cal explanation of the doctrine of original sin ; for it is 
plain, said he, that your objections lie with equal weight 
against original imputed righteousness, as against orig- 
inal imputed sin." Upon which I had the candor to 
acknowledge to the worthy ecclesiastic, that upon the 
Christian plan, I perceived that the argument had fairly 
terminated against me. For at that time I dared not dis- 
trust the infallibiUty of revelation, much more to dispute 
it. However^ this conversation was uppermost in my 
mind for several months after, and after many painful 
searches and researches after the truth respecting the 

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140 OSACLES 01* BEASOK. 

doctrine of imputation, resolved at all events to abide the 
decision of rational argument in the premises, and on a 
full examination of both parts of the doctrine, rejected 
the whole ; for on a fair scrutiny I found, that I must 
concede to it entirely or not at all, or else beheve incon- 
sistently as the clergyman had argued. 

Having opened and explained the doctrine, we proceed 
argumentatively to consider it. Imputation of sin or 
righteousness includes an alteration or transferring of 
the personal merits or demerits of sin or righteousness, 
from those who may be supposed to have been active in 
the one or the other, to others, who are premised not to 
have been active therein, otherwise it would not answer 
the Bible notion of imputation. For if sin or righteous- 
ness, vice or virtue, are imputable only to their respec- 
tive personal proficients or actors, in this case original sin 
must have been imputed to Adam and Eve, to the ex- 
clusion of their posterity, and the righteousness of 
Christ as exclusively imputed to himself, precluding all 
others therefrom ; so that both the sin of the first Adam 
and th^ righteousness of the second, would, on this 
sitating of imputation, have been matters which respect 
merely the agency, of the demerits or merits of the two 
respective Adams themselves, and in which we could 
have had no blarae, reward or concern, any more than in 
the building of Babel. 

This then is the qiiestion that determines the sequel 
of the dispute for or against the doctrine of imputation, 
viz. whether the personal merit or demerit of mankind, 
that is to say, their virtue or vice, righteousness or wick- 
edness can be aUenated, imputed to, or transferred from 

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ORACLE OF EEASON. 141 

t 

one person to another, or not ? If any should object 
against this stating of the question now in dispute, it 
would be the same in reality as disputing against the doc- 
trine of imputation itself, for imputation must transfer 
or change the personal merit or demerit of the sin or 
righteousness of mankind or not do it ; if it does not do 
it, the whole notion of original sin or of righteousness, 
as being imputed from the first and second Adams to 
mankind, is without foundation, consequently, if there is 
any reality in the doctrine of imputation, it must needs 
transfer or change the guilt of original sin, or of the 
apostacy of Adam and Eve, to their posterity, or other- 
wise they could need no atonement or imputative righte- 
ousness, as a remedy therefrom, but every individual of 
^* mankind would have stood accountable to their creator 
and judge on the basis of their own moral agency," 
which is undoubted the true state of the case, respecting 
all rational and accountable beings ; so that if the trans- 
ferring of the individual merits or demerits of one per- 
son to another, is not contained in the act or doctrine of 
imputation, it contains nothing at all, but is a sound 
without a meaning, and after all the talk which has been 
in the world about it, we must finally adopt to old pro- 
verb, viz. '* every tub stands upon its own bottom." 



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142 OBACLEg OF SEASON. 



SECTION n. 

THE MORAL RECTITUDB OF THINGS FORECI/)SES ^^HK ACTT Of 
IMPUTATION. 

Imputation confounds virtue and vice^ and saps the 
very foundation of moral government, both divine and 
human. Abstract the idea of personal merit and dem^t, 
from the individuals of mankind, justice would be totally 
blind, and truth would be nullified, or at least excluded 
from any share in the administration of government. 
Admitting that moral good and evil has taken place in 
the system of rational agents, yet, on the position of im- 
putation, it would be impossible, that a retribution of 
justice should be made to them by God or by man, except 
it be according to their respective personal merits and 
demerits ; which would fix upon the basis of our own 
moral agency and accountability, and preclude the impu- 
tation of righteousnes. 

Truth respects the reality of things, as they are in their 
various complicated and distinct natures, and necessarily 
conforms to all £icts and reahties. It exists in, by and 
with every thing that does exist, and that which does not 
and cannot exist, is fictitious and void of truth, as is the 
doctrine of imputation. It is a truth that some of the 
individuals of mankind are virtuous, and that others are 
vicious, and it is a truth, that the former merit peace of 
conscience and praise, and the latter horror of conscience 
and blame ; for God has so constituted the nature of 
things, that moral goodness, naturally and necessarily 
tends to happiness in a moral sense, and moral evil as 

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OBACLES OF REASON. 143 

necessarily tends to the contrary ; and as truth respects 
every thing, as being what it is, it respects nature, as 
Grod has constituted it, with its tendencies, dispositions, 
aptitudes and laws ; and as the tendency of virtue is to 
mental happiness, and vice the contrary, they fall under 
the cognizance of truth, as all other facts necessarily do ; 
which tendencies will for ever preclude imputation, by 
making us morally happy or miserable according to our 
works. 

Truth respects the eternal rules of unalterable rectitude 
and fitness, which comprehends all virtue, goodness and 
true happiness ; and as sin and wickedness is no other 
but a deviation from tlxe rules of eternal unerring order 
and reason, so truth respects it as unreasonable, unfit, 
unrighteous and unhappy deviation from moral rectitude, 
naturally tending to misery. This order of nature, com- 
prehended under the terms of truth, must have been of 
all others the wisest and best ; in fine it must have been 
absolutely perfect ; fi)r this order and harmony of things, 
could not have resulted firom anything short of infinite 
wisdom, goodness and power, by which it is also upheld ; 
and all just ideas of equity, or of natural and moral 
fitness must be learned from nature, and predicated on it ; 
and nature predicated on the immutable perfection of 
a God; and to suppose that imputation, in any one 
instance has taken place, is the same as to suppose, that 
the eternal order, truth, justice, equity and fitness of 
things has been changed, and if so, the God of nature 
must needs have been a changeable being, and liable to 
alter his justice or order of nature, which is the same 
thing ; for without the alteration of nature, and the 

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144 ORACLES OF REASON. 

tendency of it, there could be no such thing as imputation, 
but every of the individuals of mankind would be ulti- 
mately happy or miserable, according as their respective 
proficiencies may be supposed to be either good or evil, 
agreeable to the order and tendency of nature befcH*e 
alluded to. For all rational and accountable agents 
must stand or fall upon the principles of the law of nature, 
except imputation alters the nature and tendency of 
things ; of which the immutability of a God cannot admit. 
From what has been already argued on this subject, 
we infer, that as certain as the individuals of mankind 
are the proprietors of their own virtues or vices, so certain, 
the doctrine of imputation cannot be true. Furthermore, 
the supposed act or agency of imputing or transferring 
the personal merit or demeritof moral good or evil, alias, 
the sin of the first Adam, or the righteousness of the 
second Adam, to others of mankind, cannot be the actor 
exertion of either the first or second Adam, from whom 
original sin and righteousness is said to have been imput- 
ed. Nor can it be the act or doings of those individuals, 
to whom the supposed merit or demerit of original sin 
or righteous is premised to be imputed ; so that both 
Adam and each individual of mankind are wholly exclud- 
ed jGrom acting any part in the premised act of imputation ; 
and are supposed to be altogether passive in the matter, 
and consequently it necessarily follows, that if there ever 
was such an act as that of imputation, it must have been 
the immediate and sovereign act of God, to the preclusion 
of the praise or blame of man But to suppose, that 
God can impute the virtue or vice of the person of A, to 
be the virtue or vice of the person of B, is the same as 

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ORAOLEB O^ ftEASOK, 145 

to suppose thiat God cati imptite or chan^ truth into 
fals^ood^ or falsehood into truth, or that he can reverse 
the nature of moral rectitude itself, which is inadmissible. 
But admitting, that imputation was in the power and at 
the option of man, it is altogether probable ihat they 
would hare been very sparing in impulning merit and 
happiness, but might nevertheless have been vastly liberal 
in imputing demerit and miisery, from one to another, 
whicJi is too &rdcaL 



SECTION III. 

CONTAINING RKIAARKS ON THE ATONEltENT AND SATISFAC- 
TION FOR ORIGINAL SIN. 

The doctrine of imputation is in every point of view 
incompatible with the moral perfections of God. We 
will premise, that the race of Adorn in their respective 
generations was guilty of the apostacy, and obnoxious to 
the vindy^tive justice and punishment of God, and ac- 
cordingly doomed to either an eternal or temporary pun- 
ishment therefore, which is the Bible representation of 
the matter. What possibility could there have been of 
reversing the divine decree ? It must be supposed to 
have been just, or it could not have had the divine sanc- 
tion, and if so, a reversal of it would be unjust. But 
it would be still a grelater injustice to lay the blame and 
vindictive punishment df a guilty race of condemned 
sinners upon an innocent and inoffensive being, for in 
this case the guilty would be exempted from their just 
punishment, and the innocent unjustly suffer for it, which 

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146 ORA01iJ&8 OF REASON. 

holds up to view two manifest injustices ; the first con* 
sists in not doing justice to the guiky^ and the second in 
actually punishing the innocent^ which instead of aton- 
ing for sin, would add sin to sin, or injustice to injus- 
tice ; and after all, if it was ever just, that the race of 
Adam should have been punished for the imputed ^ of 
thdur premised original ancestor, be that punishment what 
it will, it is so still, notwithstanding the atonement, for 
the eternal justice and reason of things can never be 
altered. This justice always defeats the possibility of • 
satisfaction for sin by way of a mediatcnr. 

That physical evils may and have been propagated by 
natural generation, none can dispute, for that the facts 
tiiemselves are obvious. But that moral evil can be thus 
propagated, is altogether chimerical, for we are not bom 
criminals. 



SECTION IV, 

REMABKS ON REDEMPTION, WROUGHT OUT BY INFJUCTINQ 
THE DEMERITS OF SIN UPON THE INNOCENT, WOULD 
BE UNJUST, AND THAT IT COULD CONTAIN NO MERCY 
OR GOODNESS TO THE UNIVERSALITY OF BEING. ' 

The practice of imputing one person's crime to an- 
other, in capital offences among men, so that the innocent 
should suffer for the guilty, has never yet been intro- 
duced into any court of judicature in the world, or so 
much as practised in any civilized country ; and the 
manifest reason in this, as in all other cases of imputa- 
tion, is the same, viz. it confounds personal merit and 
demerit. ^ i 

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ORACLES OF REASON. 147 

The murderer ought to suffer for the demerit of his 
crime, but if the court exclude the idea of personal de- 
merit (guilt being always the inherent property of the 
guilty and of them only) they might as well sentence 
one person to death for the murder as another : for jus- 
tice would be wholly blind was it liot predicated on the 
idea of the fact of a personal demerit, on the identical 
person who was guilty of the murder : nor is it possible 
to reward merit abstractly considered from its personal 
agents. These are facts that universally hold good in 
human government. The same reasons cannot fail to 
hold good in the divine mind as in that of the human, 
for the rules of justice are essentially the same whether 
applied to the one or to the other, having their uniformity 
in the eternal truth and reason of things. 

But it is frequently objected, that inasmuch as one 
person can pay, satisfy and discharge a cash debt for 
another, redeem him from prison and set him at liberty, 
therefore Jesus Christ might become sponsible for the 
sins of mankind, or of the elect, and by suffering their 
punishments atone for them and free them from their 
condemnation. But it should be considered, that (Com- 
parisons darken or reflect light upon an argument ac- 
cording as they are either pertinent or impertinent there- 
to ; we will therefore examine the comparison, and see if 
it will with propriety apply to the atonement. 

Upon the Christian scheme, Christ the Son was God, 
and equal with God the Father, or with God the Holy 
Ghost, and therefore original sin must be considered to 
be an offence equally against each of the persons of the 
premised Trinity, and being of a criminal natuie could 

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148 OBACLSS OF BEASON. 

not be discharged or satisfied by cash or produce^ as debts 
of a civil contract are, but by suffering ; and it has al- 
ready been proved to be inconsistent with the divine or 
human government, to inflict the punishment of the 
guilty upon the innocent, though one man may discharge 
another's debt in cases where lands, chattels or cash are 
adequate to it ; but what capital offender was ever dis- 
charged by such commodities ? 

Still there remains a difficulty on the part of Chris- 
tianity, in accounting for one of the persons in the pre- 
mised Trinity satisfying a debt due to the impartial 
justice of the unity of the three persons. For God the 
Son to suffer the condemnation of guilt m behalf of 
man, would not only be unjust in itself, but incompatible 
with his divinity, and the retribution of the justice of 
the premised Trinity of persons in the god-head (of 
whom God the Son must be admitted to be one) toward 
mankind ; for this would be the same as to suppose God 
to be judge, criminal and executioner, which is inadmis- 
sible. 

But should we admit for argument's sake, that God 
suffered for original sin, yet taking into one complex idea 
the whole mental system of beings, universally, both 
finite and infinite, there could have been no display of 
grace, mercy, or goodness to being in general, in such a 
supposed redemption of mankind ; inasmuch as the same 
quantity or degree of evil is supposed to have taken place 
upon being, universally considered, as would have taken 
place, had finite individuals, or the race of Adam, suf- 
fered according to their respective demerits. 

Should we admit that there is a Trinity of persons in 

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OBAOXBS OF BSA80K. 149 

the divine essence, yet the one could not suflTer without 
the other, for essence cannot be divided in suffering, any 
more than in enjoyment. The essence of God is that 
which includes the divine nature, and the same identical 
nature must necessarily partake of the same glory^ honor, 
power, wisdom, goodness and absolute uncreated and un- 
limited perfection, and is equally exempted from weak- 
ness and suffering. Therefore, as certain as Christ suf- 
fered he was not God, but whether he is supposed to be 
God or man, or both, he could not in justice have suf- 
ficed for original sin, which must have been the demerit 
of its perpetrators as^ before argued. 

Supposing Christ to have been both God and man, he 
must have e^usted in two distinct essences, viz. the essence 
of Gbd and the essence of man. And if he existed in two 
distinct and separate essences, there could be no union 
between the divine and human natures. But if there is 
any such thing as an hypostatieal union between the di- 
vine and human natures, it must unite botli in one es- 
sence, which is impossibfe : for the divine nature being 
infinite, could admit of no addition or enlargement and 
consequently cannot allow of a union with any nature 
whatever. Was such an union possible in itself, yet, for 
a superior nature to unite with an inferior one in Ae 
same essaice, would be degrading to tiie former, as it 
would put both natures on a level by constituting an 
identity of nature: the consequences whereof woidd 
either deify m^n, or divest Grod of his divimty, and re- 
duce him- to the rank and condition of a creature ; inas- 
much as the united essence must be denominated either 
divine or human. 

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150 OBAOiBS OF BBASON. 



CHAPTER XII. 

SECTION I. 

OF THB IMPOSSIBILITT OF TBANSLATTNG Al^ INFALLIBLE 
BEVBLATIOK FBOM ITS OBIGINAL COPIES, AND PBB- 
SBBYING rr ENTIBB THBOUGH ALL THE REVOLUTIONS 
OF THB WOBLD, AlfD VICISSITUDES OF HUMAN LEARN- 
ING TO OUR TIME, 

Admitting for argument sake that the Scnptures of 
the Old and New Testament were originally of divine 
supernatural inspiration, and that their first manuscript 
copies were the infallible institutions of God, yet to trace 
them firom their respective ancient dead languages, and 
different and diverse translations, from the obscure hiero- 
glyphical pictures of characters, in which they were first 
written, through all the vicissitudes and alterations of 
human learning, prejudices, superstitions, enthusiasms 
and diversities of interests and manners, to our time, so 
as to present us witli a perfect edition from its premised 
infidlible original manuscript copies would be impossible. 
The various and progressive methods of learning, with 
the insurmoimtable difficulties of translating any sup- 
posed antiquated written revelation would not admit of 
it, as the succeeding observations on language and gram- 
mar will frilly evince. 

In those early ages of learning, hieroglyphics were 
expressive of ideas ; for instance, a snake quirled (a po- 
sition common to that venomous reptile) was an emblem 
of eternity, and the picture of a lion, a representation of 
power, and so every beast, bird, reptile, insect and fish. 

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OSACLfiS OF BXASOir. 151 

bad in their respective pctures^ particular ideas annexed 
to them, which varied with the arbita^ry custom and com* 
mon consent of the several separate nations, among whom 
this way of cnmmunicatiiig ideas was practised, in some 
sense analogous to what is practked at this day by di£Eer- 
ent nations, in connecting particular ideas to certain 
sounds or words written in characters, which according 
to certain rules of grammar constitute the several lan- 
guages. But the hieroglyphical manner of writing by 
living emblems, and perhaps in some instances by other 
pictures, was very abstruse, and inadet]^uate to communi- 
cate that multiplicity and diversity of ideas which are 
requisite for the purpiose of history, argumentation or 
general knowledge in any of the sciences or concerns of 
]i& ; which mystical way of communicatiiig ideas under- 
went a variety of alterations and improvements, though 
not so much as that of characters and grammar has 
done ; for in the hierc^lyphical way of communicating 
their ideas, there was no such thing as spelling, or what 
is now called orthography, which has been perpetually 
refining and altering, ever since characters, syllables, 
words or grammar have been brought into use, and which 
will admit of correction and improvement as long as 
mankind continue in the world. For which reason the 
original of all languages is absorbed and lost in the mul- 
tiplicity of alterations and refinements, whidi have in all 
ages taken place, so that it is out of the power of all 
Etymologists and Lexiuonists now living, to explain the 
ideas, which were anciently connected with those hiero- 
glyphical figures or words, and^which may have com- 
posed the original of any language, written in characters^ 

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152 OBAtma 07 BIASOV. 

in ihaie obsolete and antiquated ages, irhen learning and 
science were in their infuicy : sinoe the beneficial art of 
printing has arrired to any considerable degree of perfec- 
tion, the etymology of word?, in the sci^itifical and 
learned languages, has been considerably well tmder- 
stood : though imperfedily, as the yarbus opinions of the 
learned concerning it may witness* But since the 
era of pruiti^g, the knowledge of the ancient learning 
has been in a great measure, or in most respects, wholly 
lost; and inasmuch as the modem substitute ia much 
beUer, it is no loss $t all. Some of the oM EngH^h au- 
thors are at this day quite uninteHigible, and others bk 
their reqiectixe latter pubHcatbns, i^ore or less so. The 
laal century and a haM haa done more towards the per- 
fectmg of grammar, and purifyi^ the language thm 
the world had er ex done before. 

I do not understand Trfrtiu, Greek or Hebrew, m which 
laijiguagea, it ia aaid» that the 8eyei;al original manuscripts 
of the Scriptures were written ; but I am informed by 
the learned therem, daat, like other languages, they have 
gone through their respectit^ alterations and r^nements^ 
which must have been the case, exc^t they reached their 
greatest perfection in their first composition ; of whidt 
the progressive c^mdition of man could not admit So 
that the learned in those languages, at this day, know 
but little or nothing how they were spok^L or written 
when the first manuacript copies of the Scriptures were 
composed ; and consequently, are not able to in&rm us, 
whether their present translations do, any of them, per- 
fectly agree trith their respective original premised in&l- 
lible manuscript c^iea or not. And inaamuch as the 

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OBJLCtlBt Ot mkA.80K> 153 

Bevetal English translations of the Bible do materially 
differ from each other^ it evinces the confused and blun- 
dering condition in which it has been handed down to 
u». 

The clergy often informs us from the desk^ that the 
translation of the Bible^ which is now in use in this 
country^ is erroneous, after having read such and such a 
passage of it, in either Latin, Greek or Hebrew, they 
frequently give us to understand, that instead of the 
present translation, it should have been rendered thus 
and thus in £nglish> but never represent to us how it 
Was read and understood in the antiquated and mystical 
figures or characters of those languages, when the man- 
usciipts of Scripture Were first written, or how it has 
been preserved and handed down entire, through every 
refinement of those languages, to the present condition 
of Latin, Greek and Hebrew. Probably this is too ab- 
struse a series of retrospective learning- for their scholar- 
ship, and near or quite as foreign from their knowledge 
as from that of their hearers. 

It is not to be supposed that all the alterations which 
have taken place in language, have been merely by im- 
proving it. In many instances, ignorance, accidei^t or 
custom has varied it to its disadvantage, but it has never- 
theless been subject to correction, and generally speaking 
has been altered (or the better, yet, by one means or 
other has been so fluctuating and imstable, as that an in- 
fallible revelatipn could not have been genuinely pre- 
served, through all the vicissitudes and revolutions of 
learning, for more than seventeen hundred years last past 

to this day. Digitized by GooqIc 

7# 



'Skd dlYfrsity of tU £i^^h Ifiopwige k repceseniled 
wUh great accuxacjr by Mr. Samujel ^liomon^ the cele- 
brated lexicographer, in the samples of different ages, in 
his history of the English language^ subjoined to the 
pijefcce of the dictipnary, Iq which the curious are re- 
fi^ired ^r the obsenranoe of the yarious speciEnetts. 



SECTION IL 

THE VABIETY OF ANNOTATIONS AND EXPOSITIONS OF 
THE 9CKIRTURE9, TOGBTHEB WITH THE DIVBRaiTY OF 
SECTAMES EVINCES THEIR FALUBIUTX- 

SvMiY comme»tary and annotation on the Bible^ im- 
plicitly declares its £illibiUty ; for if the Scriptures re- 
mained genuine and entire, they would not stand in need 
of commentaries and expositions, but would shine in 
their infeliible lustre and purity without them. What 
an idle phantom it is for mortals to assay to illustrate and 
explain to mankind^ that which God may be supposed to 
have undertaken to do, by the immediate inspiration of 
his spirit ? Do they understand how to define or explain 
it better than God may be supposed to have done ? This 
is not supposable; upon what ground then do these 
multi^lidty of comments arise, excq>t it be pre-suj^K>sed 
that the j^esent transhtions of the Bible have, by some 
means or other, become fallible and imperfect, and there- 
fore need ta be rectified and explained ?• and if so, it has 
lost the stamp of divine authority ; provided in its origi- 
nal composition it may be supposed to have been pos- 

^*' Digitized by Google 



OaACtES 09 BEASOir. 155 

To ccmstrue or s][Hritualize tke Bible is tke same as to. 
inspire it over again, by the judgment, fimcy or enthu- 
siasm of men ; and thus the common people, by receiv- 
ing God*s supposed revelation at secondary hands 
(whether at the thousandth or ten thousandth remove 
from its first premised inspiration they know not) cannot 
in fact be taught by the revelation af Grod. Add to this 
the diverse and clashing expositions of the Bible, among 
which are so many flagrant proofs of the MlibiKty and 
uncertainty of such teachings, as must convince even 
bigofes, that every one of tihiese exposilions are erroneous, 
except their ovm ! , 

It has been owing to diffeirent comments on the Scrip- 
tures, that Christians have been divided into sectaries. 
Every commentator, who could influence a party to em- 
brace his comment, put himself, at the head of a division 
of Christians ; as Luther, Calvin, and Arminius, laid the 
foundation of the sectaries who bear their neunes ; and 
the Socinians were called after the Scismatical Sociaius ; 
the same may be said of each of the sectaries* Thus it 
is that different commentaries or acceptations of the orig- 
inal meaning of the Scriptures, have divided the Chris- 
tian world into divisions and subdivisions of which it 
consists at present. Nor was there ever a division or 
subdivision among Jews, Christians or Mahometans, 
respecting their notions or opinions, of religion, but what 
was occasioned by commentating on the Scriptures, or 
else by latter pretended inspired revelations from God in 
addition thereto. The law of Moses was the first pre- 
tended immediate revelation from God, which respects 
the Bible, and after that in succession the several revela- 
tions of the prophets, and last of all (in the Chsistian 



156 OEAG1£8 09B£A80K« 

system) the revelations of Jesus Christ and apostles^ who 
challenged a right of abolishing the priesthood of Moses ; 
Christ claiming to be the antitype of which the institu- 
tion of sacrifices and ceremonial part of the law of Moses 
was emblematical ; but this infringement of the preroga- 
tive of the Levitical priests gave such offence, not only 
to them^ but to the Jews as a nation, that they rejected 
Christianity, and hav# not subscribed to the divine au- 
thority of it to this daf , holding to the law of Moses and 
the prophets. Howeter Christianity made a great pro- 
gress in the world, aoi has been very much divided into 
sectaries, by the caus«l previously assigned* 

** Mahomet taking notice of the numerous sects and 
divisions among Christians, in his joumies to Palestine, 
&c., thought it would not be difficult to introduce a new 
religion, and make himself high priest and sovereign of 
the people.** This he finally effected, prosecuting his 
scheme so fiir, that he new modelled the Scriptures, pre- 
senting them, (as he said,) in their original purity, and 
called his disciples after his own name. He gained 
great numbers of proselytes and became their sovereign 
in civil, miUtary and spiritual matters, instituted the 
order bf mystical priesthood, and gave the world a new 
Bible by the name of the Alcoran ; which he gives us 
to understand was communicated to him from God, by 
the intermediate agency of the angel Gabriel, chapter by 
chapter. " His disciples at this day inhabit a great part 
of the richest countries in th^ world, and are supposed 
to be more numerous than the Christians," and are as 
much, if not more, divided into sectaries, from causes 
similar to those which produced the division of Cbris- 
tians, viz. : the different commentators on, and exposi- 



0BACLZ8 OV mBASOK. 157 

tions of the Alcoran. The Mufti, or priests, repre* 
sented the doctrines and precepts of the Alcoran in a 
Variety of lights different from each other, each of them 
claiming the purity of the original and in&Uible truths 
prescribed to the world by Mahomet, their great reformer 
of Christianity. For though the several sectaries of 
Mahometans differ, respecting the meaning of their Al* 
coran, yet they all hold to the truth and divine authority 
thereof, the same as the Christian sectaries do conceni'^ 
ing their Bible : so that all the different opinions which 
ever did, or at present do subsist, between Jews, Chris- 
tians and Mahometans, may be resolved into one consid* 
eration, viz. : the want of a right understanding of the 
original of the Scriptures. All sat out at first, as they 
imagined, from the truth of God's word, (except the 
impostors,) concluded that they had an infeUible guide, 
and have, by one means or other, been guided into as 
many opposite faiths as human invention has been capa^^ 
ble of fabricating ; each sect among the whole, exulting 
in their happy ignorance, believing that they are favored 
with an infallible revelation for their direction. 

It alters not the present argument, whether the Scrip- 
tures were originally true or not; for though they be 
supposed to have been either true or false, or a mixture 
of both, yet they could never have been handed down 
entire and uncorrupted to the present time, through the 
various changes and perpetual refinements of learning 
and language ; this is not merely a matter of speculative 
and argumentative demonstration, the palpable certainty 
of it stands confessed in every Jewish, Christian and 
Mahometan sectary. ^^^^^^^ ,, Google 



158 0BAOI.B& OT BSA801C 



SECTION la 

ON THE COMPILING OF THE MANUSCRIPTS 0^ THE SCHIP- 
TURES INTO ONE VOLUME, AND OF ITS SEVERAL TRANS- 
LATIONS. THE INFALLIBILITY OP THE POPES, AND OF 
THEIR CHARTERED RIGHTS TO REMIT OR RETAIN SINS, 
AND OP THE IMPROPRIETY OP THEIR BEING TRUSTED 
WITH A REVELATION FROM GOD. 

The manuscripts of Scripture, which are said to have 
been originally written on scrolls of bark, long before 
the invention of paper or printing, and are said to 
compose our present Bible, were in a loose and con- 
fused condition, scattered about in the world, deposited 
nobody knows how or where, and at different times were 
compiled into one volume. The four gospels are by 
the learned generally admitted to have been wrote many 
years after Christ, particularly that of St. John : and 
sundry other gospels in the primitive ages of Christianity 
were received as divine by some of its then sectaries, 
which have unfortunately not met with approbation in 
subsequent eras of the despotism of the church. 

The translation of the Scriptures by Ptolemy Phila- 
delphus, king of Egypt, was before Christ, and there- 
fore could not include the writings of the New Testa- 
ment in his translation, and " whether by seventy-two 
interpreters, and in the manner as is commonly related, 
is justly questioned." But where, at what time, and by 
whom, the Scriptures of the Old and New Testament 
were first compiled into one volume, is what I do not 
understand : but was it a longer or shorter period after 
Christ, it alters not the present argument materially. 



OKACLXft QT mSAfOK. 150 

since the scattered manuscripts were in a loose and con- 
fused condition tor a long time ; and the grand query is^ 
when the compilers of those manuscripts collected them 
together in order to form them into one volume^ how 
they could have understood the supposed divine writings, 
or symhoHcal figures^ with the ideas originally connected 
with them, and distinguish them from those which w^:e 
m^ely human, and in comparison of the others are 
called profane. To understand this distinction would 
require a new revelation, as much as may be supposed 
necessary ioac composing the original manuscripts them- 
selves ; but it ia not pretended that the compilers or 
translators of the Bible were inspired by the divine 
spirit in the doing and completing their respective busi- 
ness ; so that human reason, ^cy, or some latent de- 
sign, must needs have been substituted, in distinguish- 
ing the supposed divine and human writings apart, and 
in giving a perfect transcript of the original manuscripts. 
Now admitting that the compilers were really honest 
principled men, (which -is more than we are certain of,) 
it would follow, that they would be obliged to cull out 
of the mixed mass of premised divine and human 
writings, such as to them appeared to be divine, which 
would make them to be the sole arbitrators of the divin- 
ity that they were compiling to be handed down to pos- 
terity as the in&lliUe word of God, which is a great 
stretch of prerogative £or mortal and Mlible man to un- 
dertake, and as great a weakness in others to subscribe 
to it, as of divine authority. 

Mr. Fenning, in his dictionary definition of the word 
Bible, subjoins the following history of its translations : 



160 omACLXs or misAsoKi 

'' The translation of this sacred volume was beguti yeiy 
early in this kingdom," [England^] *'and some part of 
it was done by King Alfred. Adelmus translated the 
Psalms into Saxon in 709, other parts were done by 
Edfrid or Ecbert in 730, the whole by Bede in 731. 
Trevisa published the whole in English in 1357. Tin-> 
dais was brought higher in 1534> revised and altered in 
1588, published with a pre&oe of Cranmers in 1540» 
In 155 1> another translation was published^ which was 
revised by several bishops, was printed with their altera* 
tions in 1560. In 1607, a new translation was published 
by authority^ which is that in present use.'' From this 
accoimt it appears, that from the first translation of the 
Bible by Trevisa, into English, in 1367, it has been 
revised, altered, and passed through six different pub« 
lications, the last of which is said to have been done by 
authority, which I conclude means that of the king, 
whose prerogative in giving us a divine revelation, can 
no more be esteemed valid than that of other men, 
though he may be possessed of an arbitrary power within 
the limits of his realm to prevent any further correction 
and publication of it. As to the changes it underwent 
previous to Trevisa's tnmslation, in which time it was 
most exposed to corruptions of every kind, we will not 
at present particularly consider, but only observe that 
those translations could not, every one of them, be per- 
fect, since they were diverse from each other, in conse^ 
quence of their respective revisions and corrections ; nor 
is it possible that the Bible, in any of its various edi* 
tions could be perfect^ any more than all and every one 
of those persons who have acted a part in^transmitting 

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09ACLES OF BEASOH. 161 

them down to our time may be supposed to be so : ibr 
perfection does not pertain to man, but is the essential 
- prerogative of God. 

The Boman Catholics, to avoid the evils of imper- 
fection^ fallibility and imposture of man, have set up the 
Pope to be in&Uible ; this is their security agunst being 
misguided in their Mth, and by ascribing holiness to 
him, secure themselves £rom imposture; a deception 
which is incompatible with holiness. So that in mattera 
of faith, they have nothing more to do, but to believe 
as, their church believes. Their authority for absolving 
or retaining sins is very extraordinary ; however, their 
charteip is from Christ, (admitting them to be his vicars, 
and t^e successors of St. Peter,) and the present Eng- 
lish translation of the Bible warrants it. The commis- 
sion is in these words : '^ And I will give unto thee the 
keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whoever thou shalt 
bind pn earth, shall be bound in heaven ; ajad whatso- 
ever thou shall loose on earth, shall be loosed in heaven. 
Whosespever 9ina ye remit, they are remitted unto them, 
and whosesoever siijis ye retain, they are retained," 
That St. Peter or his successors should have a power of 
binding and determining the state and condition of man- 
kind in the world to come by remitting or retaining sins, 
is too great a power to be intrusted to men, as it inter- 
feres with the providence and prerogative of God, who 
on this position vould be exempted from judging the 
world, (as it would interfere with the charterea preroga- 
tive of the Popes in their remitting pr retaining of sins, 
admitting it to have been genuine,) precluding the di- 
vine retributicm of justice ; we may, therefore, from the 

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162 0BAGLE8 OF BEA&OK. 

■/ 

authority of reason, conclude it to be spurious. It was 
a long succession of ages that all Christendom were 
dupes to the See of Rome, in which time it is too evi- 
dent to be denied, that the holy fathers obtruded a great 
deal of pious fmud on their devotees ; all public wor- 
ship was read to the people in imknown languages^ as it 
is to this day in Roman Catholic countries. Nor has the 
Bible, in those countries, to this time, been permitted to 
be published in any but the learned languages, which 
affords great opportunity to the Romish church to fix it 
to answer their lucrative purposes. Nor is it to be sup- 
posed that they want the inclination to do it. The 
before recited grant of the power of the absolution of 
sin, to St Peter in particular, was undoubtedly of their 
contrivance. 

In short, reason would prompt us to conclude, that 
had God, in very deed, made a revelation of his mind 
and will to mankind, as a rule of duty and practice to 
them, and to be continued as such to the latest posterity, 
he would in the course of his providence have ordered 
matters so that it should have been deposited, trans- 
lated, and kept, in the hands of men of a more unexcep- 
tionable character than those holy cheats can pretend to. 

Witchcraft and priestcraft, were introduced into this 
world together, in i^ non-age ; and has gone on, hand 
in hand together, until about half a century past, when 
witchcraft began to be discredited, and is at present 
almost exploded, both in Europe and America. This dis- 
covery has depreciated priestcraft, on the scale of at least 
fifty per cent, per annum, and rendered it highly proba- 
ble that the improvement of succeeding generations, in 



OKAOI.^8 OF REASOK. 163 

the knowledge of nature and science, will exalt the rea- 
son of mankind, above the tricks and impostures of 
priests, and bring them back to the religion of nature 
and truth ; ennoble their minds, and be the means of 
cultivating concord, and mutual love in society, and of - 
extending charity, and good will to all intelligent beings 
throughout the universe ; exalt the divine character, and 
lay a permanent . foundation for truth and reHance on 
j»rovidence ; establish our hopes and prospects of immor- 
tality, and be condusive to every desirable consequence, 
in this worlds and that which is to come ; which will 
crown the scene of human feUdty in this sublunary 
state of being and probation ; which can never be com- 
pleted while we are under the power and tyranny of 
priests, since as it ever has, it ever will be their interest, 
to invalidate the law of nature and reason, in order to 
establish systems incompatible therewith. 



CHAPTER XIII. 
SECTION I. 

MORALITY DERIVED FROM NATURAL FITNESS, AND NOT FROM 
TRADITION. 

Such parts or passages of the Scriptures as inculcate 
morality, have a tendency to subserve mankind, the same 
as all other pubUc investigations or teachings of it, may 
be suppossed to have ; but are neither better or worse 
for having a place in the volume of those writings de- 

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164 onAQLZM OV B£4^SQH. 

nomin^d csgaonipal ; for morality does not derire its na- 
ture from book$^ but from the fitness of things ; and 
though it may be more or less, interspersed throu^ the 
pages of the Alcoran, its purity and rectitude would re- 
main the same.; for it is founded in eternal right ; and 
whatever vritib»gfl, books or oral speaculations, best illus- 
trate or t^ch this moral science, should have the prefer- 
ence. The knowlei^ of thi& as well as fdl other sciences, 
is acquired £c:om reason and experience, and (g^itis pro- 
gressively t)btained) may with pr«^rie^ be called, the 
revelation of God, which ha has revealed to us in the 
constitution of o\ir rational natures ; and as it is. conge- 
nial with reason and ti!iLth> cannot:(Hke olber^revdatipna) 
partafke of imposture. This isinatural religion, and couM 
be derived feom none other but God. , IJaave eiideaT<»- 
ed, in this treatise^ to pruni^ 1^ rfiligioh ft^m those ex^ 
crescences, with which craft on the one hand, and igno- 
rance on the other, have loaded it ; and to hold it up to 
view in its native simplicit y^ free £:om alloy; and have 
throughout the contents of the volume, addressed the 
reason of mankind, and Jiot their passions, traditions or 
prejudices ; for which cause, it is noways probable that 
it will meet with any cQixsi:^9r^ble approbation. 

Most of the human race, by one means or other are 
prepossessed with principles opposed to the religion of 
reason. In these parts of America, they are most gener- 
ally taug}it,,th^ |l|ef l@ce borni ift^ tb^ w^ld iet ^ state 
of ^njpaity tpjQod, and 33at<^rgLl g&Q^ymA are vuiider his. 
wrath ^d cu^^tbat tte way. to heav^ and Jfciture. bless- 
edness is, out pf: &im. power to pursue, and that it is in- 
cumbered with mysteries whiA none but the prieata cam 

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OBAGLfiS OF &1A90K. 165 

unfold, that we must ** be born again^^^ have a epeotal 
kind of faith, and be regenerated ; or in fine, thlit humlm 
nature, which they call " the old man," must be destroy- 
ed, perverted, or changed by them, and by them new 
modelled, before it can be admitted into the heavenly 
kingdom. Such a plan of superstition, as £ur as it ob- 
tains credit in the world, subjects mankind to sacerdotal 
empire ; which is erected on the imbecility of human na- 
ture. Such of mankind, as break the fetters of their ed- 
ucation, remove such other obstacle? as are in their way, 
and have the confidence publicly to talk rational, exalt 
reason to its just supremacy, and vindicate truth and the 
ways of God's providence to men, are sure to be stamped 
with the epithet of irreligious, infidel, pro&ne, and the 
like. But it is often observed of such a man, that he is 
morally honest, and as often replied, whctt of thai 1 Mar^ 
ality will carry no man to heaven. So that all the satis- 
fitction the honest man can have while the superstitious 
are squibbling hell fiire at him, is to retort back upon 
them that they are priest ridden. 

The manner of the existence, and intercourse of hu- 
man souls, after the dissolution of their bodies by death, 
being inconceiveable to us in this life, and all manner of 
intelligence between us and departed souls impracticable, 
the priests have it in their power to amuse us with a 
great variety of visionary apprehensions of things in the 
world to come, which, while in this life, we cannot con- 
tradict from experience, the test of great part of our 
certainty (especially to those of ordinary understandings) 
and having introduced mysteries into their religion, make 
it as incomprehensible to us, (in this natural st^te) as the 

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166 OBACLSS 07 Al&ASOir. 

manner of" our future existence ; and from Scripture au- 
thority, having invaKdated reason as being carnal and de- 
praved, they proceed further to teach us from the same 
authority, that, "the natural man knoweth not the things 
of the spirit, for they are foolishness unto him, neither 
can he know them for they are spiritually discerned." 
A spiritualizing teacher is nearly as well acquainted with 
the kingdom of heaven, as a man can be with his home 
lot. He knows the road to heaven and eternal blessed- 
ness, to which happy regions, with the greatest assurance, 
he presumes to pilot his dear disciples and unfold to them 
the mysteries of the canonical writings, and of the world" 
to come ; they catch the enthusiasm and see with the 
same sort of spiritual eyes, with which they can pierce 
religion through and through, and understand the spirit- 
ual meaning of the Scriptures, which before had been *'a 
dead letter " to them, particularly the revelations of St. 
John the divine, and the allusion of the horns therein 
mentioned. The most obscure and unintelligible passages 
of the Bible, come within the compass of their spiritual 
discerning as apparently as figures do to a mathmetician : 
then they can sing songs out of the Canticles, saying, " I 
am my beloved's and my beloved is mine ; " and being 
at a loose from the government of reason, please them- 
selves with any fanaticisms they like best, as that of their 
being ** snatched as brands out of the burning, to enjoy 
the special and eternal favor of God, not from any worthi- 
ness or merit in them, but merely from the sovereign will 
and pleasure of God, while millions of millions, as good 
by nature and practice as they, were left to welter eter- 
nally, under the scalding drops of divine vengeance ; " 

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OKACLX OF BEASOV. 167 

not considering, that if it was consistent with the perfec- 
tions of God to saye them, his salvation could not feil to 
have been uniformly extended to all others, whose cir^ 
cnmstances may be supposed to be similar to, or more 
deserving than theirs, for equal justice cannot fiiil to ap* 
ply in all cases in which equal justice demands it. But 
these deluded people resolve the divine government 
altogether into sovereignty : " even so Father, for so it 
seemed good in thy sight." And as they exclude reason 
and justice from their imaginary notions of religion, they 
also exclude it from the providence or moral government 
of God. Nothing is more common, in the part of the 
country where I was educated, -than to hear those infat- 
uated people, in their public and private addresses, 
acknowledge to their creator, from the desk and else- 
where, " hadst thou, O Lord, laid judgment to the line 
and righteousness to the plummet, we had been in the 
grave with the dead and in hell with the damned, long 
before this time.'* Such expressions from the creature 
to the creator are profane, and utterly incompatible with 
the divine character. Undoubtedly, (all things complex- 
ly considered) the providence of God to man is just, in- 
asmuch as it has the divine approbation. 

The superstitious thus set up a spiritual discerning, 
independent of, and in opposition to reason, and their 
mere imaginations pass with each other, and with them- 
selves, for infallible truth. Hence it is, that they despise 
the progressive and wearisome reasonings of philosophers 
(which must be admitted to be a painful method of arriv- 
ing at truth) but as it is the only way in which we can 
cquire it, I have pursued the old natural road of radoc- 

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16a 0BACX&6 OF msAAOfr. 

ination, concluding, that as diis sphituai discerning is 
mltogether inadequate to the management of any of the 
concerns of life, or of contributing any assistance or 
Imowledge towards the perfecting of the arts and sciences, 
4t is equally unintelligible and insignificant in matters of 
religion : and therefore conclude, that if the human race 
in general, could be prerailed upon to exercise common 
sense in religious concern^, those spiritual fictions would 
cease, and be succeeded by reason and truth. 



SUCTION 11. 

OF THE IMPORTANCE OF THB EXERCISE OF REASON, AND 
PRACTICE OF MORALITY, IN ORDER TO THE HAPPINESS 
OF MANKIND. 

The period of life is very uncertain, and at the longest 
is but short ; a few years bring us from infancy to man- 
hood, a few more to a dissolution ; pain, sickness and 
death are the necessary cbnJsequences of animal life. 
Through life we struggle with physical evils, which 
eventually are certain to destroy our earthly composition ; 
and well would it be for us did evils end here ; but alas ! 
moral evil has been more or less predominant in our 
agency, and though natural evil is unavoidable, yet moral 
evil may be prevented or remedied by the exercise of 
virtue. Morality is therefore of more importance to us 
than any or all other attainments ; as it is a habit of mind, 
which, from a retrospective consciousness of our agency 
in this lyfe, we should carry with us into our succeeding 

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0BACI.E8 OF BSASOSr. 169 

State of existence^ as an acquired appendage of our 
rational nature, and as the necessary means of our mental -^ 
happiness. Virtue and vice are the only things in this 
world, which, with our souls, are capable of surviving 
death; the former is the rational and only procuring 
cause of all intellectual happiness, and the latter of con- 
scious guilt and misery ; and therefore, our indispensable 
duty and ultimate .interest is, to love, cultivate and 
improve the one, as the means of our, greatest good, and 
to hate and abstain from the other, as productive of our 
greatest evil. And in order thereto, we should so far 
divest ourselves of the incumbrances of this world, (which 
are too apt to engross our attention) as to inquire a con- 
sistent system of the knowledge of religious duty, and 
make it our constant endeavor in life to act conformably 
to it. The knowledge of the being, perfections, creation ^ 
and providence of God, and of the immortality of our 
souls, is the foundation of 'religion; which has been 
pai$icularly illustrated in the four first chapters of this 
discourse. And as the Pagan, Jewish, Christian and 
Mahometan countries of the world have been overwhelm- 
ed with a multiplicity of revelations diverse from each 
other, and which, by their respective promulgators, are 
said to have been immediately inspired into their souls 
by the spirit of God, or immediately communicated to 
them by the intervening agency of angels (as in the 
instance of the invisible Gabriel to Mahomet) and as those 
revelations have been received and credited, by afer the 
greater part of the inhabitants of the several countries of 
the world (on whom they have been obtruded) as super- ' 
naturally revealed by God or angels^ wj^^^^dph, in 



170 OBAOLES OF BEASON. 

doctrine and discipline, are in most respects repugnant to 
each other, it fully evinces their imposture, and author- 
izes us, without a lengthy course of arguing, to determine 
with certainty, that not one of them had their original 
from God ; as they clash with each other, which is ground 
of high probability against the authenticity of each of 
them. ^ 

A revelation, that may be supposed to be really of the 
institution of God, must also be supposed to be perfectly 
consistent or uniform, and to be able to stand the test of 
truth ; therefore such pretended revelations, as are ten- 
dered to us as the contrivance of heaven, which do not 
bear that test, we may be morally certain, was either 
originally a deception, or has since, by adulteration be- 
come spurious. 

Keason therefore must be the standard by which we 
determine the respective claims of revelation ; for other- 
wise we may as well subscribe to the divinity of the one 
as of the other, or to the whole of them, or to none ^t 
all. So likewise on this thesis, if reason rejects the 
. whole of those revelations, we ought to return to the 
religion of nature and reason. 

Undoubtedly it is our duty, and for our best good, 
that we occupy and improve the faculties, with which 
our creator has endowed us, but so far as prejudice, or 
prepossession of opinion prevails over our minds, in the 
same proportion, reason is excluded from our theory or 
practice. Therefore if we would acquire useful knowl- 
edge, we must first divest ourselves of those impediments ; 
and sincerely endeavor to search out the truth : and draw 
our conclusions from reason and just argument^ which 



OB^CLES OF REASON. 171 

will never conform to our inclination, interest or fiincy ; 
but we must conform to that if we would judge rightly. 
As certain as we determine contrary to reason, we make 
a wrong conclusion ; therefore, our wisdom is, to con- 
form to the nature and reason of things, as well in 
religious matters, as in other sciences. Preposterously y 
absurd would it be, to negative the exercise of reason in 
religious concerns, and yet, be actuated by it in all other 
and less occurrences of life. All our knowledge of things 
is derived from God, in and by the order of nature, out 
of which we cannot perceive, reflect or understand any 
thing whatsoever ; our external senses are natural ; and 
those objects are also natural ; so that ourselves, and all 
things about us, and our knowledge collected therefrom, 
is natural, and not supernatural ; as argued in the fifth 
chapter. 

An unjust composition neVer fails to contain error and 
falsehood. Therefore an unjust connection of ideas is 
not derived from nature, but from the imperfect compo- 
sition of man. Misconnection of ideas is the same as 
misjudging, and has no positive existence, being merely 
a creature of the imagination ; but nature and truth are 
real and uniform ; and the rational mind by reasoning, 
discerns the uniformity, and is thereby enabled to make 
a just composition of ideas, which will stand the test of 
truth. But the ^tastical illuminations of the credulous 
and superstitious part of mankind, proceed from weak- 
ness, and as feir as they take place in the world subvert y/' 
the religion of beason, natube and tbuth. 

Ethan Allen. 

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ALIiEH^ Ethan. 

Reason, the only 
oracle of man. 



102 
Allen 



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